As I grow in my relationship with Jesus, I continue to discover that the love he gives is not only incomprehensible, it is also enduring. It never fails. I Corinthians 13:8 states plainly, “Love never fails.” What the Bible states, I have found to be true, not only in my life, but also in the lives of countless people I have met. I Corinthians 13:5 describes the caliber of this love in this way:
“Love does not envy, is not boastful, is not proud. It is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs.”
We often read this passage in the Bible at weddings, and challenge the couple to live it out in their marriage. Yet, we don’t often consider that this passage in the Bible was written to show us God’s love first and then have it call us to emulate him. In order for us to better get a handle on what God’s enduring love for us looks like, Jesus once told a story. The story centered around a father who had two sons. One son insisted on receiving his inheritance before his father died, and squandered it in a party lifestyle. The other son stayed close to home out of duty rather than out of pure love for his father. When the wandering son returned home, he fully expected to be treated as he deserved – a father maintaining his pride, full of anger, remembering the wrongs that had been done to him, the wrongs for which this son deserved punishment. However, the reaction he received from his father was anything but what he expected.
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. 21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’
22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
The other son heard about the party his father was throwing, and rather than joining in found his pride disturbed by realizing that he wasn’t most favored because of his ‘duty’. He felt that he should have earned far more attention from his father than his erring, wandering brother, and it angered him to see such lavish attention given to the one who’d broken his father’s heart. The father, rather than letting pride stay in the way, chose to privately and lovingly correct his beloved son and express fully the abundant love he had always had for both of them.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’
28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. 30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’
31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. 32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’”
This isn’t just a story Jesus told to entertain. It describes God’s enduring, lavish love for us – even when we fail, even when we aren’t perfect, even when we aren’t all we could be. His love never fails, and continuously waits for us to return to him, wanting us to experience restored relationship rather than desiring to punish us for our misdeeds. This Advent season, Jesus offers us the gift of enduring love. Will you accept it?
Jesus, I don’t deserve that kind of love. I’ve done a lot of things that deserve what that wandering son expected. Or, I’ve been like that brother who thought he deserved more, and yet didn’t realize he already had everything including his father’s amazing, enduring love – too proud to see it. Please, forgive me, and open my heart to receive this incomprehensible, enduring love that you offer me. In Jesus’ name, amen.