I found this article very refreshing: Jesus mugs you with his love by Adrian Warnock. This sweet article echoes the parable of the Prodigal Son - a most beloved parable in all Christian circles, and also in Urantia Book circles. It is an amazing story; and we'll blog about it below, but here's a little teaser:
"What does the father do? He doesn't wait for the confession to be over. He says, "Okay, enough, enough. Enough. Servants, bring a robe. Put it on my son. Put a ring on his finger. Kill the fatted calf. My son was dead and now he's alive again."
"This is a God of grace. "We love him not because we first loved him but because he first loved us." God doesn't just offer salvation; he goes and gets you. He pounces on you. He mugs you with his love. The Scripture says so.
Click to read the article
And so does The Urantia Book say so...not only that, but in The Urantia Book, you'll never be taught the error that God the Father is a vengeful, jealous deity - a God who loves, but a God that you must have a nagging fear about, lest he become angry with you. Instead, you'll discover a personal God with whom you can have a personal relationship. I like this passage that reveals this great truth in the section called The Personality of God:
Notwithstanding that God is an eternal power, a majestic presence, a transcendent ideal, and a glorious spirit, though he is all these and infinitely more, nonetheless, he is truly and everlastingly a perfect Creator personality, a person who can "know and be known," who can "love and be loved," and one who can befriend us; while you can be known, as other humans have been known, as the friend of God. He is a real spirit and a spiritual reality.
Actually, it is kind of rare to see an evangelical writer espousing this kind of radical love of God without any caveats about repentance; I like it! It gives me great hope that the love of God will eventually trump the fear of God in our churches!
We all love the Prodigal Son parable, don't we? It's a pretty simple story, and one that many of us can relate to. Jesus liked to tell this story along with the parable of the Lost Sheep, and also the parable of the Lost Coin. It's added to this blog below, and I hope you'll read it before you go, because it's far longer and far more inspiring that the story as told in our Bible records.
Many of us can relate to the story of the Prodigal Son, in regards to our relationship with God; I surely can. And what a joy it is when we realize that we've been welcomed back into God's good graces. Even if we've deliberately left him, as did the prodigal... when we come to our senses and realize that we made a terrible mistake, we discover that he's been waiting all along to take us back into his arms of love and shower us with blessings - no questions asked, no groveling required (although in my case, I felt I deserved to grovel a little bit...!)
In The Urantia Book, we learn of the true nature of God - and in that nature, there is no trace of vengeance, no indication that God withholds his love from anyone who seeks it, no judgment upon a soul who sincerely wants to enter the Father's heavenly kingdom. God really is crazy about us - he's crazy about you, and me, and all of his children. He lives as a supplicant in the mind of man - the lowest form of his will creatures - subjecting himself to the thoughts and the experiences of even the most spiritually lost of human beings. The aim of his indwelling our minds is that we might at some point look for and hear that "still, small voice" that tells of the joys of sonship with him. Jesus describes it this way:
148:6.10 "While the speech of God spoken from the whirlwind was a majestic concept for the day of its utterance, you have already learned that the Father does not thus reveal himself, but rather that he speaks within the human heart as a still, small voice, saying, `This is the way; walk therein.' Do you not comprehend that God dwells within you, that he has become what you are that he may make you what he is!"
It will be a great day when the world discovers the loving nature of God and realizes the intimacy of the relationship we can have with him; in my view, the unreasoned fear of God is the source of all the world's problems - the fear that his will must be unpleasant or opposed to mine, the fear that he's watching for me to make a mistake, the fear that I'll never measure up and deserve his love.
Discovering a good God
Such unfortunate ideas are not all that hard to understand when the world has always seen God as a supposedly loving parent of all of us who was so mad at Adam and Eve for sinning that he made the most innocent of his sons die a hideous death to make up for the badness of all the rest of us. After that, he felt better I guess, but it's made many of us believe that all of humanity has since then, been born under forfeit of sin. And poor Jesus had to pay the price. It's hard to feel good and do good with a willing heart when one feels always wrong and under a sentence of death.
A god like that might be rightfully thought of as a little bit unstable - all-powerful, yes, but just a bit capricious and withholding of his love. If he did that to Jesus, what might he do to me, a sinful wretch?
And so, when learning through the revelation of The Urantia Book that 1) the atonement is a false doctrine and 2) that God is never angry, never vengeful, but always loving and forgiving, it was with the greatest relief and gratitude!!!
Why should anyone believe such a thing? you might ask. I guess for me, it simply made better sense. I really wanted to love God - but it's hard to love someone that you're afraid of. The heavenly Father of The Urantia Book is so adorable, one can't help but love and believe in him. One of the authors of the book puts it this way in a section called The Love of God:
I find it easy and pleasant to worship one who is so great and at the same time so affectionately devoted to the uplifting ministry of his lowly creatures. I naturally love one who is so powerful in creation and in the control thereof, and yet who is so perfect in goodness and so faithful in the loving-kindness which constantly overshadows us. I think I would love God just as much if he were not so great and powerful, as long as he is so good and merciful. We all love the Father more because of his nature than in recognition of his amazing attributes.
I'd have to add: DITTO!
The Prodigal Son
As promised, here's the story of the Prodigal Son the way Jesus told it - also called The Lost Son; It's a long read, but well worth the effort:
169:1.1 On Thursday afternoon Jesus talked to the multitude about the "Grace of Salvation." In the course of this sermon he retold the story of the lost sheep and the lost coin and then added his favorite parable of the prodigal son. Said Jesus:
"You have been admonished by the prophets from Samuel to John that you should seek for God—search for truth. Always have they said, `Seek the Lord while he may be found.' And all such teaching should be taken to heart. But I have come to show you that, while you are seeking to find God, God is likewise seeking to find you. Many times have I told you the story of the good shepherd who left the ninety and nine sheep in the fold while he went forth searching for the one that was lost, and how, when he had found the straying sheep, he laid it over his shoulder and tenderly carried it back to the fold. And when the lost sheep had been restored to the fold, you remember that the good shepherd called in his friends and bade them rejoice with him over the finding of the sheep that had been lost. Again I say there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety and nine just persons who need no repentance. The fact that souls are lost only increases the interest of the heavenly Father. I have come to this world to do my Father's bidding, and it has truly been said of the Son of Man that he is a friend of publicans and sinners.
"You have been taught that divine acceptance comes after your repentance and as a result of all your works of sacrifice and penitence, but I assure you that the Father accepts you even before you have repented and sends the Son and his associates to find you and bring you, with rejoicing, back to the fold, the kingdom of sonship and spiritual progress. You are all like sheep which have gone astray, and I have come to seek and to save those who are lost.
"And you should also remember the story of the woman who, having had ten pieces of silver made into a necklace of adornment, lost one piece, and how she lit the lamp and diligently swept the house and kept up the search until she found the lost piece of silver. And as soon as she found the coin that was lost, she called together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece that was lost.' So again I say, there is always joy in the presence of the angels of heaven over one sinner who repents and returns to the Father's fold. And I tell you this story to impress upon you that the Father and his Son go forth to search for those who are lost, and in this search we employ all influences capable of rendering assistance in our diligent efforts to find those who are lost, those who stand in need of salvation. And so, while the Son of Man goes out in the wilderness to seek for the sheep gone astray, he also searches for the coin which is lost in the house. The sheep wanders away, unintentionally; the coin is covered by the dust of time and obscured by the accumulation of the things of men.
"And now I would like to tell you the story of a thoughtless son of a well-to-do farmer who deliberately left his father's house and went off into a foreign land, where he fell into much tribulation. You recall that the sheep strayed away without intention, but this youth left his home with premeditation. It was like this:
"A certain man had two sons; one, the younger, was lighthearted and carefree, always seeking for a good time and shirking responsibility, while his older brother was serious, sober, hard-working, and willing to bear responsibility. Now these two brothers did not get along well together; they were always quarreling and bickering. The younger lad was cheerful and vivacious, but indolent and unreliable; the older son was steady and industrious, at the same time self-centered, surly, and conceited. The younger son enjoyed play but shunned work; the older devoted himself to work but seldom played. This association became so disagreeable that the younger son came to his father and said: `Father, give me the third portion of your possessions which would fall to me and allow me to go out into the world to seek my own fortune.' And when the father heard this request, knowing how unhappy the young man was at home and with his older brother, he divided his property, giving the youth his share.
"Within a few weeks the young man gathered together all his funds and set out upon a journey to a far country, and finding nothing profitable to do which was also pleasurable, he soon wasted all his inheritance in riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a prolonged famine in that country, and he found himself in want. And so, when he suffered hunger and his distress was great, he found employment with one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into the fields to feed swine. And the young man would fain have filled himself with the husks which the swine ate, but no one would give him anything.
"One day, when he was very hungry, he came to himself and said: `How many hired servants of my father have bread enough and to spare while I perish with hunger, feeding swine off here in a foreign country! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no more worthy to be called your son; only be willing to make me one of your hired servants.' And when the young man had reached this decision, he arose and started out for his father's house.
"Now this father had grieved much for his son; he had missed the cheerful, though thoughtless, lad. This father loved this son and was always on the lookout for his return, so that on the day he approached his home, even while he was yet afar off, the father saw him and, being moved with loving compassion, ran out to meet him, and with affectionate greeting he embraced and kissed him. And after they had thus met, the son looked up into his father's tearful face and said: `Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no more worthy to be called a son'—but the lad did not find opportunity to complete his confession because the overjoyed father said to the servants who had by this time come running up: `Bring quickly his best robe, the one I have saved, and put it on him and put the son's ring on his hand and fetch sandals for his feet.'
"And then, after the happy father had led the footsore and weary lad into the house, he called to his servants: `Bring on the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry, for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they all gathered about the father to rejoice with him over the restoration of his son.
"About this time, while they were celebrating, the elder son came in from his day's work in the field, and as he drew near the house, he heard the music and the dancing. And when he came up to the back door, he called out one of the servants and inquired as to the meaning of all this festivity. And then said the servant: `Your long-lost brother has come home, and your father has killed the fatted calf to rejoice over his son's safe return. Come in that you also may greet your brother and receive him back into your father's house.'
"But when the older brother heard this, he was so hurt and angry he would not go into the house. When his father heard of his resentment of the welcome of his younger brother, he went out to entreat him. But the older son would not yield to his father's persuasion. He answered his father, saying: `Here these many years have I served you, never transgressing the least of your commands, and yet you never gave me even a kid that I might make merry with my friends. I have remained here to care for you all these years, and you never made rejoicing over my faithful service, but when this your son returns, having squandered your substance with harlots, you make haste to kill the fatted calf and make merry over him.'
"Since this father truly loved both of his sons, he tried to reason with this older one: `But, my son, you have all the while been with me, and all this which I have is yours. You could have had a kid at any time you had made friends to share your merriment. But it is only proper that you should now join with me in being glad and merry because of your brother's return. Think of it, my son, your brother was lost and is found; he has returned alive to us!'"
This was one of the most touching and effective of all the parables which Jesus ever presented to impress upon his hearers the Father's willingness to receive all who seek entrance into the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus was very partial to telling these three stories at the same time. He presented the story of the lost sheep to show that, when men unintentionally stray away from the path of life, the Father is mindful of such lost ones and goes out, with his Sons, the true shepherds of the flock, to seek the lost sheep. He then would recite the story of the coin lost in the house to illustrate how thorough is the divine searching for all who are confused, confounded, or otherwise spiritually blinded by the material cares and accumulations of life. And then he would launch forth into the telling of this parable of the lost son, the reception of the returning prodigal, to show how complete is the restoration of the lost son into his Father's house and heart.