In Romans we move fast from the uplifting salutation and declaration of the gospel power into reality check. Human condition is exposed bare. Gentiles, Christian Gentiles, Jews, everyone has their share of guilt in the human rebellion. However, something new caught my attention in reading Romans 1:18-32 on God’s Wrath. Something not some much about our condition, but about God’s love.
We all know about the “un-redeemable” condition of humans apart from God. This is clearly illustrated in the story of the Prodigal Son. One definition for the word Prodigal is the one who spends money or resources freely and recklessly; wastefully extravagant. This is exactly what the Prodigal son does in the story. He wastes all his father’s inheritance with prostitutes and wild life.
However, before we are too quick to judge the Prodigal son, we must turn back to the first chapters of Romans. In there Paul’s make the charge the Gentiles and Jews are alike. Therefore, we conclude that one way or the other we all play the prodigal son in our own unique rebellious ways.
So Paul goes on to say that God’s wrath is upon all those who suppress God’s truth. All those who played the Prodigal Son. However, God’s wrath unfolds in a very different way. God’s wrath on Romans unfolds by God “giving them over” to whatever they want to do. A lot similar to what the father in the prodigal son’s story. The father, though very sadly, grant the son’s request of his share of the inheritance (which mean he couldn’t wait until his father dies so he wanted to speed up the process). The father grants the son’s requests and the rest of the story we already know.
I go back to the dictionary and find another interesting definition for the word Prodigal, one that fits the father: “Prodigal may be someone who gives something on a lavish scale”.
The Prodigal Father does just that. He gives love to his son on a lavish scale by granting his freedom and “giving him over” to his selfish mind. But the Prodigal father doesn’t just “wash his hands of it”. Instead the Prodigal father, waits for his son in the porch.. and he waits. This part of the story is found on Luke 15:20:
“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”
It was shameful for an old man to run like that, but the Prodigal father didn’t care. He ran and threw his arms around his son… he loved lavishly…
In Jesus God gave himself over to suffer our penalty (Rom 4:25, Rom 8:32, Efe 5:25).
While we acted as the Prodigal Son ourselves, wasting talents, money and opportunities, God acted as the Prodigal Father, loving us wastefully to the point of dying on a Cross.
God’s wrath is really not about God’s anger after all. God’s wrath is about loving us so much to give us freedom to decide (even if that decision is to rebel). God’s wrath is about the Prodigal Father, who’s just waiting for our return to love us lavishly .