Verbs That Make All the Difference in the World

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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"So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. "

Luke 15:20

My Greek professor in graduate school taught me an invaluable lesson in translation: Pay attention to the verbs. If you're ever faced with having to interpret a complicated Greek sentence, the verbs make all the difference.

That's true when it comes to Luke 15:20, but in a way that goes far beyond what I learned in school. The verbs in this verse do much more than help us understand its linguistic meaning. They also reveal the character of God in a way that can change our relationship with God and how we live each day.

Consider, for example, the first verb in Luke 15:20 of which the father is the subject. It follows a description of what the younger son did after he "came to himself" and realized his dire condition (15:17). Simply stated, he returned home. In this context we read, "And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming." Though Jesus does not say so explicitly, the picture he paints suggests that the father had been waiting for his son to return. It's not hard to imagine him gazing into the distance, scanning the horizon, hoping that his son might one day show up.

The father could have gone after his son, compelling him to return home. But he did not choose this course of action. Instead, he allowed his son to realize the desperateness of his situation and to come home by choice, not compulsion. Yet, we mustn't think, therefore, that the father was unconcerned for his son while the young man was away from home. On the contrary, the waiting, watching father yearned for his son's return.

Similarly, God does not force us into relationship with him. Rather, he allows us to respond to his grace. Yet this does not mean God is passively available should we happen to decide to come home to him. Rather, God is eagerly awaiting our return. But that's not all. There are still more verbs to come.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: As you read the Parable of the Prodigal Son, how do you respond to the picture of the father who is eagerly awaiting the return of his son? Why do you think Jesus had the son return to the father, rather than having the father go out and find the son? Do you believe God is eager for your company? Does God yearn for relationship with you?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, thank you for the verbs in Luke 15:20. It seems a little odd to thank you for parts of speech, but these verbs are priceless treasures of theological truth. They help me to know you more truly and deeply.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for desiring relationship with me. Thank you for seeing me, even when I am far away from you.

Today, I remember people in my life who are far away from you. Some have known you, but have wandered off. Others have never known you. As you look for them, Lord, may they "come to themselves" and begin coming to you. Amen.

P.S. FROM MARK: I am writing a series for my blog that you might find interesting. It’s called: How Does God Guide Us? In this series, I’m looking at the variety of ways in which God guides our lives. Check out my blog for the most recent post in this series.