FROM THE 'DEEP END' : God wants to be near us

Eric Partin
Eric Partin

On a whole, Christians believe some pretty crazy things, one of them being that God became one of us. It’s kind of a strange thought if you think about it.   

But why would God need to come down to dwell among us? Sometimes we here things like “Jesus came to save the lost,” but what does that mean? To some people it might even seem offensive. You might say, “I’m not lost, I know exactly where I am!” What we find out when Jesus talked about saving people who were lost, it wasn’t about correcting their behavior or even getting them to act more like Him. It was about proximity to Him.

In Luke 15 Jesus is in a place where is speaking to two very different types of people. One group were the most religious people of the day and the other were the least religious people — people whose behaviors had separated them from God as far as their society was concerned. The religious ones had this contention with Jesus that if He was around these people then He probably condoned their behavior. He proceeds to tell a few stories to the crowd to explain what God is really like.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”Luke 15:4

Jesus gets these two groups to agree that some things are valuable enough to stop everything and look for. The next story Jesus tells shows what God really values: people. He talks about a rich man who had two sons. The younger son asks his dad to give him his inheritance early, the equivalent of asking his dad to drop dead. To the surprise of Jesus’ audience, the dad agrees and soon the son leaves town and blows the wealth it took his father a lifetime to accumulate in a few short months. Pretty soon he’s out of money and now has to get a job, but the only job he can get is feeding pigs. He still has no money to eat, so he ends up eating from the pig trough.

What the youngest son in this story had done was extremely offensive to the Jewish culture and even the biggest heathens in the crowd. Jesus could have stopped right there and this would have been a great moral lesson about respecting your parents. Instead, Jesus continues. 

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’

So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him. He ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”Luke15: 17-21

 I am sure everyone in the audience gasped at this point. How could a son who’s done such terrible things inspire so much compassion from his father?

The father continues in Luke 15:23:

“Quick, Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.’”

Not only does the father in the story take the son back, but he begins to celebrate his return. Jesus says that the older brother, who had been a good son the whole time his younger brother disgraced himself, was rightfully angry. The father tells the older son,

“But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and now he is found.” Luke 15:32

Just like the father in the story, God is concerned with proximity, not performance. The father had compassion for the son because he had been disconnected from him and now he was back. It’s the same way God looks at us, not with anger for what we’ve done, but compassion when we choose to be close to him. That’s why He came. Not to punish us, but to be connected with Him. That’s why Jesus was spending so much time with people who were nothing like him.

So, what does God think of you when He thinks of you? Usually when I ask that question the most common answer I get is disappointed, but He’s not. Jesus said through this story that He has compassion for you. He is still looking for you even when you are a long way off. That means you don’t have to try to fix yourself anymore. It is a crazy idea, but Jesus became one of us so that He could communicate and demonstrate what God was like, that He wasn’t angry he just wanted to be near you.

Pastor Eric Partin is the lead pastor of Shoreline Church in Destin and can be reached at ericpartin@shorelinechurch.net.