Can I Begin Again?

KEY VERSE: “He arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” —Luke 15:20


THE PARABLE OF the Prodigal Son is designed to emphasize the fact that Jesus showed interest in sinners, and taught that upon the basis of true repentance they could attain the favor of his Heavenly Father.

The important lesson of the parable is that of a father forgiving his erring son and receiving him back into his family. Indeed, a feast was arranged to celebrate the occasion of the prodigal’s return. The elder son refused to take part in the celebration, complaining to his father that although he had served him faithfully throughout the years when his brother had been wasting his life, no celebration had ever been arranged for him—no “fatted calf” had ever been killed, and no opportunity given to make merry with his friends.

This parable clearly illustrates the sin of jealousy in a matter of no less importance than life itself. However, unlike the elder son, the father looked upon the return of his younger son as though he had received him back from the dead. The boy’s sin had not destroyed the father’s love for him.

But it is important to note that the prodigal son had repented of his wrongdoing, and had returned humbly to his father, not even asking to be reinstated as a son, but merely that he might become one of the servants. Here we have illustrated an important principle in God’s dealings with all his intelligent creatures, whether angels or men, Jews or Gentiles, Pharisees or publicans. Repentance is essential in order to have one’s sins forgiven.

God’s love for the sin-cursed human race motivated him to send his beloved Son to be a savior and redeemer. But as individuals no one receives any benefit from this except upon the basis of repentance and dedication to do the Father’s will. There are two aspects of a sinner’s return to God. There is God’s part in providing the atoning blood, and there is the sinner’s part of repentance and consecration. The Master taught that those who sincerely endeavor to be righteous, have no right to be jealous when sinners repent and are accepted with rejoicing into the favor of God.

The lesson might also be that no matter how outwardly righteous one might be, to take the attitude of the elder brother in the parable would itself indicate an impure heart condition. It would surely reveal a lack of true godlikeness. Our Heavenly Father stands ready to embrace all who return to him in humility and true repentance.

The father of the prodigal son spoke of having received him back from the dead. It was as though the young man had been dead. We can understand the heart rejoicing and sympathetic understanding of this loving father.

But these sentiments are not shared by some who are not willing to concede that sinners who have actually gone into death and will be restored to life, can possibly receive any consideration from the Heavenly Father. How thankful we are to have learned that the love of God is broader than the measure of many human minds which have been distorted by erroneous views concerning him!

The important lesson of the parable is that we are to maintain a sympathetic, loving attitude toward the erring, rejoicing at evidence of repentance or endeavor to walk in the ways of the Lord more perfectly. Our attitude toward those who repent of their wrongdoing should be based upon what they are today, rather than on their erroneous conduct of yesterday. Thus we will be like our Father who is in heaven.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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