Speeding and the Lost Son

The other day I was driving home on the interstate. I was cruising along happily at just slightly above 60 mph. I came upon a construction zone speed limit sign. It was marked with a bright orange strip and orange flags to ensure that no one would miss it. Construction Zone: Speed Limit 45 MPH.

There didn’t appear to be any actual construction in progress. I started to slow down, but cars were zipping by going at least 75 mph. Going 45 didn’t seem necessary. After all, everyone around me was speeding. Surely I wouldn’t get pulled over as long as I stayed with the flow of traffic.

It struck me how naturally that thought took hold. The same thing happens all the time in my faith-life. I’m cruising along, feeling fine when God sends me a warning sign. I know His laws like I know the traffic laws that govern the roads. My conscience waves that orange flag – time to slow down and reconsider. But it’s easy to feel comfortable in sin. Everyone around me is going full-speed down that road and nothing bad seems to be happening to them. Even my Christian peers who have studied God’s Word often seem unaffected by what it says.

I didn’t get pulled over and I didn’t kill a construction worker. No one around me did either. I could use this as evidence that the speed limit didn’t matter. It’s tempting to persist in our sins, believing everything is fine. I know people who drive drunk and think it’s OK because nothing bad has ever happened when they do it. But it only takes once. We live dangerously, denying the risk. When we continually go against the Word of God, we are living dangerously. Sin is seductive. It seems harmless, even beneficial, when we first give in. The farther we pull away from God, the more our lives begin to careen out of control. Soon, we’re so deep in sin, turning back feels like an impossible task.

God created His laws out of love for us. Our Father who created us knows the way to live that will be most beneficial to us. He provides guidance so we won’t go down paths of pain and destruction. But He wants us to mature and learn on our own, so He gives us the freedom to go down those wrong paths if we insist.

Jesus told a story that demonstrated the Father’s love for us despite our sin. (See Luke 15:11-24) A son asked his father for his inheritance. In that culture, it was akin to the son saying he wished his father was dead because he wanted his money. The father gave his son what he asked for. The son wasted all the money on parties and women and ended up broke and miserable. He came crawling back to his dad to beg for forgiveness. He wanted to work as a servant for his father because he knew he didn’t deserve to be his son anymore. Jesus said that while the son was still far away, his father saw him coming. That suggests that his father had been watching eagerly and waiting for him since the day he left. The son may have been gone for years and he had completely rejected his dad, but his dad just waited and waited for him to come back.

The father ran to his son and embraced him before he even had a chance to apologize. He held no grudge despite the shunning his son deserved. Then he welcomed his son home with a big party.

I heard this Bible story constantly from the time I was little. It became old and boring. Then one time in college I heard the parable explained beautifully, and God’s Words took hold of my heart powerfully again.

At first glance, the story shows that when sin wrecks our lives, we need to repent and come back to God humbly. But really, it wasn’t the son’s humble repentance that saved him. The father had forgiven his son before he returned. He never stopped loving his son. He constantly waited, his heart full of love and sympathy for his wayward child. The son didn’t earn back his father’s favor. He couldn’t possibly do that. As it turns out, he couldn’t do anything to lose his father’s favor.

When I speed down that road of sin, I find myself so out of control that I don’t know how to turn around. I feel incapable of coming back to God. I am trapped and can’t free myself. I don’t have to. That’s the amazing truth. God my Father has already forgiven me. He’s watching, waiting eagerly for me to admit that I need Him. The son in the story didn’t walk all the way back to his father; when he began to seek his father, his father came running to him. When we turn from God, He is ready and eager to come save us. Because He’s letting us mature and learn, God doesn’t come to save us until we ask. Our Father’s heart is breaking when we push him away. Jesus repeatedly says that there is great rejoicing in heaven when one lost person turns to God.

God yearns for my love and faithfulness. He yearns for yours, too. If your life is out of control, you don’t have to fix yourself, get your act together and then try to come before God. He wants you exactly where you are. You can come to God before you address the sin in your life. Don’t try to do it on your own. First turn to Him. Let God do the fixing. We are never so far gone that God cannot reach us. He is ready, willing and able to do great works in us. No matter how many times I find myself desperately far from God, He is always ready to run to me and embrace me.

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

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About Nicole

Daughter of God, wife, mother, volunteer youth leader, substitute teacher, aspiring writer, rabbit owner, nature lover. These are some of my titles.
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5 Responses to Speeding and the Lost Son

  1. metamorphosisofthemind says:

    What a beautiful post, Nikki. Thanks!

    That simple distinction makes all the difference in the world: God is not gracious toward us because we repent; rather, we repent because God is gracious toward us. Though it seems subtle, that is the distinction between the truly “good news” Gospel and a pseudo-gospel that is really just another unattainable law in disguise.

    It reminds me of the second verse of a new song we’re doing in chapel:

    You bade me take all I asked;
    I bade You goodbye.
    I set out to live my life;
    You sent Christ to die.
    I began to pity me;
    You began to run.
    I said I would be Your slave;
    You made me Your son.

  2. FleaStiff says:

    How strange. I had expected a post about a speeding ticket.

    As someone who stands forever disgraced in Fortune and Men’s Eyes, it perhaps should be a topic of great interest to me.

    I’m not familiar with the parable which you refer to, but then again I’m really not all that familiar with the Bible at all. I would consider writings such as the Iliad and the Oddessy to be compilations of a prior oral history. Societies which lack a written history need of necessity rely upon oral transmission of knowledge and it would certainly be kept interesting and appealing to men of various ages. I would therefore expect quite a few fanciful embellishments to creep into it. It is possible to view Homer as having provided us with a record of the various stories relating to geography, trade and commerce and navigation. To this day, with all our study of vortices, we still have no greater description of vortex escape procedures for a small vessel than that contained in Homer.

    While scholars and the people in general afford a much greater reverence for The Bible than the writings of Homer or other ancient historians, I’m not sure such status is justifiable, but then again it really transcends that which is in the realm of intellectual justification. People accept the Bible and then analyze its contents whereas they merely read Homer and then analyze its contents.

    I think much of this comes down to a matter of personal orientation and the phrase “do unto others”. I think it was in “A Man Called Peter” a biography of a minister who later became the Chaplain of the US Senate that I first heard the line “Do Unto Others Before They Do Unto You”. This is the situation with a traffic ticket and a construction zone: slowing down is wise but slowing excessively in relation to the speed of other vehicles is dangerous even if required by the posted limits. Tickets are unlikely and if the zone is unoccupied, so too is an encounter with a police vehicle. Traffic tickets are in general rather arbitrary and capriciously awarded anyway and usually serve no purpose other than revenue generation and personal satisfaction on the part of the police.

    So I would say that slowing down a bit but maintaining a view of the general traffic flow is proper. I would not extend your actions beyond the time and place in which they took place, but realize that many religious people do try to draw such parallels and impose a derived standard onto other situations.

    Sin, repentance, free-will: most interesting concepts. I guess I’m just the type of person who instead focuses on traffic limits, getting caught and immediate safety.

  3. Jon says:

    Some people accept the bible and then analyze its contents. Some people read the bible and then analyze its contents. Some people admit that they have neither read nor analyzed the bible, yet they feel qualified to make sweeping, simplistic judgments against the belief of those who have spent a lifetime reading and analyzing it.

  4. Fleastiff says:

    Speeding down the road of sin…
    I’ve had to bury two young cats in the past few days. No marks from animals. Only a broken neck. I feed these feral cats. I don’t like to know someone is wantonly killing them.

    I wonder who would be so sinfully cruel to kill a helpless animal. Then again, I recall some crime scene photos I’ve had occasion to view and it gets even worse.

    I think of how deeply that cord was embedded in JonBenet Ramsey’s neck and wonder what truly evil people exist in this world.

    This is Thanksgiving. It is a holiday I’ve not often celebrated in my life and one that is now and forever beyond any hope of being celebrated by me. For several years now I am burdened beyond all measure and beyond all foregiveness. I stand apart and can only wish others a happy Thanksgiving day. I have no turkey to share with the remaining feral cats. I have no leads in the JonBenet Ramsey case. I have no way of going back and heeding the warning signs that I saw along the road.

  5. Jon says:

    Hi Fleastiff,

    I don’t know who you are, but your comments are landing in my inbox because they follow mine on Nikki’s post. I have little idea of your background or viewpoints in general, but I relate to what you’re saying in your second comment here because I’ve often felt the same way. The world is a brutal place, full of random, merciless evil. We see it easily enough in the world around us, and (if we’re honest) we see it in ourselves as well. We and the world are not what we could have been and not what we should be.

    Worse, we look for a solution, and none is forthcoming. We’re fed by our society the standard worldview of atheistic materialism, and it is just a blank, impassive face in the face our suffering. If the universe is an accident, just a random jostling about of atoms with no purpose in mind, if everything we know is just a brief spark of life on a tiny rock orbiting a star destined to burn out and be forgotten for all eternity, then what does it matter if some of those random collections of atoms torture and murder other random collections of atoms? In a world comprised only of matter and energy, there is no good or evil. There are only chemical reactions and movements of particles, and those are not good or evil; they just are. Evil is just a psychological construct conjured up via chemical reactions in our brains, and therefore it shouldn’t logically trouble us. What is, is, and there is no moral judgment to be made.

    But if evil does trouble you (as it does me), and if you are convinced (as I am) that the world ought to have been otherwise than it is, I invite you to give serious consideration to the intellectual tradition of Christianity. In your post you describe so succinctly what Christians have long termed “sin and its wages”, the inscrutable, chaotic evil that we find all around us. Christianity is the only worldview I have found that really deals honestly with the wretched condition in which we find ourselves. Christianity never makes light of evil. It fully and freely acknowledges that evil is real, that the world is fallen from what it was originally meant to be, and that we are utterly helpless and hopeless when it comes to finding our way out of this horror. What Christianity then offers is a Savior, Jesus Christ, the God-man who came into this creation to redeem it.

    When you are “burdened beyond all measure and beyond all forgiveness” and you realize that you “have no way of going back and heeding the warning signs that I saw along the road”, then you are close to the truth. You realize that no self-help technique is going to make things better, and no grand philosophy is going to make a neat package out of life. Like the rest of us, you realize that our only hope is that someone should save us. I believe that, beyond all hope, someone has come to do just that.

    It’s really weird having a conversation on someone else’s blog. If you have any interest at all in continuing this conversation, feel free to email me at jclausing@lhssc.org.

    In your previous comment you mentioned that you have not read much of the Christian bible. Here are a few key texts you might appreciate, including the one to which Nikki was referring. Best wishes to you.

    Matthew 9:
    As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
    And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

    Matthew 11:
    At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

    Luke 15:
    And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.
    “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.
    “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'”

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