Prodigal and Prostitute
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“Forgiving the unforgivable is hard. So was the cross: hard words,

Prodigal Son

Image © Pacific Press from GoodSalt.com

hard wood, hard nails.”
William S. Stoddard

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Romans 5:8

You probably remember a man named Ted Kaczynski – the Unabomber. He’s the man who used to send mail bombs to people he didn’t like. He’s been in jail now for many years, but this week I read something I hadn’t known before.

After Kaczynski was put in prison, his mother, Wanda, was interviewed by someone associated with the Chicago Tribune. She told the reporter that she wrote letters to her son, Ted, every month. She shared her most recent letter at that time with the reporter.

“I want you to know, Ted, that when a child is born, the parents give them the gift of unconditional love for a lifetime. This is true of you. No matter what happens, my love for you will be there for a lifetime. Love, Mother.”

It must have been heartbreaking for her to write those letters because Ted had testified during his trial that she was a horrible person. In fact, he refused to even look at her as she sat in the courtroom. In spite of that, Wanda Kaczynski, wrote a letter to him every month telling him that she loved him. That story reminds me of a couple of other stories.

One of the stories is in the book of Hosea, God tells Hosea to marry a prostitute. God gives people of Israel a living object lesson that demonstrates how they are treating God. They repeatedly wander away from God to worship the idols and false gods of the people who live around them. But, like Hosea, God is not only willing to forgive and take His people back over and over again; He’s willing to go and find them and lead them back to their true beliefs over and over again.

Can you imagine how difficulty it must have been for Hosea to watch the woman he’d married destroying herself – not just once or twice either?

Have you ever known someone who repeatedly hurt themselves? Yes, most of us know someone who smokes or doesn’t exercise or overeats and those are self-destructive behaviors. But I’m talking about something more immediate.

Several of the folks I work with have a problem with picking at or pulling on their skin until they’ve made actual sores that hurt and bleed and potentially could become infected. One man has bitten his hands so many times that he wears braces to protect him from himself. One woman wears gloves all the time because without them she will pick at the skin around her fingernails until every finger is bleeding and sore. Even though these individuals know the pain that will come from their behavior, they continue to do it.

As staff, we often look at these individuals, shake our heads and ask, “Why don’t they just quit doing that? It must hurt. Why don’t they stop?” And then we clean, disinfect and bandage … and try to keep them from hurting themselves again.

When we read the Old Testament, we ask ourselves the same questions about the Israelites. “Why did they keep moving away from God and breaking His rules? Couldn’t they see that they were just going to end up being taken captive again?”

And yet, we very rarely ask those questions about our own behavior. “Why do I keep picking TV over reading my Bible? Why don’t I spend more time with God? Don’t I know that I’m damaging my relationship with God?”

Sin is self-destructive behavior that tears up our hearts and our spirits and separates us from God. But it doesn’t just hurt us. It hurts God, too. Even before we feel the pain of guilt and remorse, our behavior has broken God’s heart.

The other story I thought of was the parable that Jesus told about the prodigal son. Hosea chose someone who was already living a self-destructive lifestyle and, as an example of God’s redemption, loved her in spite of her behavior. The prodigal son was at least aware of his father’s love for him ,whether he chose to accept it or not.

“… He did not know that the best place in the world is home; for the home atmosphere had become disagreeable to him, because he could not be as independent as he desired. Any place looked better to him than home. Evil companions helped to plunge him deeper and deeper into sin, and a false excitement was kept up, and he imagined that he was happy in being free from all restraint. He had no one now to say: ‘Do not do that; for you will do injury to yourself. Do this, because it is right.’ But when his means failed, and he was obliged to take time to consider, he found himself without the bare necessities of life; and, to make his situation more trying, a famine had come upon the land.

“Starvation stared him in the face, and he joined himself to a citizen of the place. He was sent to do the most menial of work,—to feed the swine. Although this to a Jew was the most disreputable of callings, yet he was willing to do anything, so great was his need. Miserable and suffering, he sat in the fields doing his task. Because he had been unwilling to submit to the restraint of home, he now had the place of the lowest of servants. He had left home for liberty, but his liberty had been turned into the lowest of drudgery. (E.G. White, Signs of the Times, January 29, 1894)

When the prodigal son finally decides he’s had enough and makes up his mind to go home, his father is there waiting for him and welcomes him back, even though the son probably still smells like pigs. The father doesn’t care – his son has come home.

The question is, does God love anyone of us any less if we don’t come back to Him? The Israelites, as a nation, ultimately and finally rejected God…did He quit loving them?

In the final verses of Hosea, we read the promises of God through Hosea that confirm His love for not only the Jews, but all of humanity…no matter what.

“I will be like the dew to Israel; He shall grow like the lily, And lengthen his roots like Lebanon. His branches shall spread; His beauty shall be like an olive tree, And his fragrance like Lebanon. Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; They shall be revived like grain, And grow like a vine. Their scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon. ‘Ephraim shall say, “What have I to do anymore with idols?’ I have heard and observed him. I am like a green cypress tree; Your fruit is found in Me.'” Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right; The righteous walk in them, But transgressors stumble in them.” Hosea 14:5-9

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-39

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Prodigal and Prostitute — 14 Comments

  1. Amen. Thanks for reminding us that our Heavenly Father loves and cares for us in ways we cannot fathom. The Lord has used you to encourage and strengthen me as I continue on this heavenly journey. May He continue to use you in a mighty ways.

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  2. Can God eternely love those that perish in fire of punishment and new creation? Will He remember lost ones and live with that knowlidge in times with no end?

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    • Wow, Goran, that is a question I never thought of before! I'm just guessing, but I would assume that because God is eternal and infinitely loving, He will always remember and in some way mourn those who chose to die rather than spend eternity with Him.

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  3. Lillianne, I appreciate your article and like you and your coworkers sometimes I wonder why people do things to themselves that are destructive. What I have come to understand is that sometimes one pain is far less than another. For instance I have heard parents say that a situation their son or daughter was in would be far less painful to them if it were happening to them personally rather than to their offspring.

    When a person is bulimic we usually consider that ridiculous but what we don't understand most is the psychological problems the person is facing and the fact that what they do is compensating for something. Sometimes the psychological pain is far more than the physical pain used in replacing the stress, anxiety, or frustration.

    Some people will do strange things to simply get their mind off a stressful situation. I remember being in church board meetings where quite often many of the women would bring their knitting projects to the meeting not to boast about them but as a distraction to the sometimes stressful atmosphere of the meeting. They used it as a psychological bypass around environmental stress. For instance in India the movie industry is somewhat larger compared to the US but if one looks at the social conditions including work environment the reason becomes quite clear. Yet in the US, stress is high enough that it drives a lot of people to seek relief in ways that usually ends up in destructive behavior. The entertainment and drug industry thrives on this. Anything to get one's mind off the horrible reality of their lives - even for a moment.

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    • Tyler I appreciate your insight into the why behind many self-destructive behaviors. I learned something that I had not considered before. Thank you.

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  4. Lilliane, I just came up with that question when read your text. I think: if God mourns all eternity, than He will never be happy; on the other hand if He forget, that is because He stops loving them. In last sense He is not infinitely loving, and can stop to love. Can you see what a big question is this? I can only remember Esau and Jacob in sense that God loved Jacob but not Esau.

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    • We had a cat called Mocha who was the most personable cat you could possibly imagine. In the morning when I was working at my computer he would jump up near the keyboard and reach out and touch my face with his paw, and meow until I would pay him some attention. Mocha grew old and got sick and we found that he had kidney degeneration. We had him euthanized to end his suffering. Now two years later while I am sitting at my keyboard I think of Mocha with great sadness, but I also think of the ten years of happiness that he gave us. There will always be a hole in my heart left by the absence of Mocha, but at the same time it does not consume my life. I have moved on - and we have another cat Cino, who is also going to leave a hole in our hearts when he dies. Such events do not define me, but are a part of the fabric of my life.

      Perhaps my experience with the cats illustrates just a little of what God will experience with those who reject Him. There will always be a hole left for those who did not take the offer of eternal life, but there will be the joy of experiencing the relationship with those who have accepted.

      One of the recurring themes of the Bible story is renewal and recovery. I think that it is a theme that God Himself knows from experience. After all we are made in His image.

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      • Thanks for sharing this Maurice. I've lost three pets that I loved over the years, and they are all missed. Not to mention several family members and close friends. Somehow we move on by God's grace, looking forward to redemption, resurrection and reunion at Christ's second coming. God bless you.

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  5. Lilliane, I so love the way that you think and share your thoughts with the rest of the world. Thank you for yet another gem about our heavenly Father's undying love for us. Be at peace.

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  6. Thanks for ilustration. Sometimes an emotional picture gives a better insight than logic and reason. Maybe that is a great picture of God with living emotions and life not just a logical idea of God.

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  7. An anthropologist proposed a game to the kids in an African tribe. He put a basket full of fruit near a tree and told the kids that who ever got there first won the sweet fruits. When he told them to run they all took each others hands and ran together, then sat together enjoying their treats. When he asked them why they had run like that as one could have had all the fruits for himself they said: ''UBUNTU, how can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?''

    'UBUNTU' in the Xhosa culture means: "I am because we are"
    So do our loving God!!No matter what happens, my love for you will be there for a lifetime. Love, declares our Lord”

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  8. Thank you for UBUNTU. It is loaded with knowing God. God is because we are. We are because God is. I am because we all are. Great I AM. Forgotten life approach in west world. (With all the Bibles printed??) God and us will in the End eat fruit together.

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  9. This Sabbath I went back and reread this article along with some of the comments concerning your question, "The question is, does God love anyone of us any less if we don’t come back to Him?"

    The more I think about this question and the judgment that is involved and why the wicked perish the more complex it becomes. Certainly God has infinite love but what do you do when that is totally rejected considering the consequences of that rejection? I am now thinking that judgment basically has two sides to it. First it justifies those who accept God and His government even though they have committed sin and second it acknowledges the rejection of those who have pushed God out of their lives and don't want Him around anymore - ever.

    What I don't think God's judgment is, is an arbitrary mindset to destroy those who oppose His government - that would not be freedom. If a person chooses against God's government and the laws He established then he is choosing a government that is dictatorial and where the big fish eat the little fish. The problem is that such a situation makes being a little fish anything but pleasant. So for the sake of the little fish that He created He must remove those that would prey on them. That is the only way that Heaven can honestly be Heaven.

    Certainly God will miss those who decide for Hell instead of Heaven but what else could He do in order to ensure everyone's happiness. In a way it seems to be a no win situation for God. Either way He loses a part of His creation and the only choice He seems to really have is to minimize the loss which means getting rid of those who would enjoy causing trouble throughout eternity.

    Then there is the question of foreknowledge where God creates creatures that He fully well knows beforehand will be dangerous to the rest of His creation. So we have to factor that in the equation also and in so doing that whole question becomes way too complex for me to try to figure out. Therefore, I think I will opt to let God handle that whole thing for I am sure that He has already dealt with that issue in His mind long, long ago.

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