“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
1 John 3:1
My parents are divorced and remarried. It’s a part of my story, and whether I like it or not, this reality affects how I encounter Jesus’ Prodigal Son parable. Whenever I read this spiritual story of two brothers and their father, my heart reminds me that I feel treated differently by my parents than my half and step-siblings. My life as a child in my dad’s and mom’s homes vastly differed from what my siblings by remarriage experienced as they grew up.
We’re all adults now and have talked through many of the differences. We’ve processed what changed from then to now, for better or worse, and landed on common ground in several areas. The fact is, each of us is loved distinctly and fully by our parents, even if it doesn’t feel true all the time. I embrace this more readily now than when I was a kid, but I still need to be reminded and reassured that my parents love me just for being me.
Whether you grew up in an intact family or a fragmented one, you can put yourself in the shoes of the Prodigal Son’s older brother. He was mad because his sibling strayed far from family, prematurely squandered his inheritance, and shamefully returned but was still forgiven and honored by his dad. No amount of pleading worked to soften the older son’s spirit. Eventually, the father calls him teknon, an endearing term for “child” (v. 31). Rather than scold his son, he tenderly reminds and reassures him of his unwavering status in his heart and household. Jesus doesn’t reveal what happened next. Did the older brother head inside to party? Did he stay out all night stewing in anger and bitterness? Or did he stare into the night sky feeling torn about how his dad loves all his children?
Reminded and reassured. Both kids needed that in the parable of the Prodigal Son. Jesus’ closest followers needed it, especially when Christ returned to heaven, and they faced opposition at every turn. 1 John 3:1 is a key passage when it comes to recognizing your identity in the heavenly Father’s family. Without clearly being told, people don’t automatically identify followers of Jesus Christ as God’s dearly beloved children. The same is true for onlookers and those in the family of God. You and I, whether we feel like it’s true or not, can rest in the reality that our heavenly Father loves us distinctly and fully more than we’ll totally comprehend. I pray that you and I will be reminded and reassured of this by God in surprising ways today.
The book of 1 John has a clear purpose: to anchor believers in their faith and future as children of God (see 1 John 5:13 and the rest of the letter). Today, write out a prayer to God and talk with Him about what His love means to you, any doubts you have regarding your status in His eyes, and ask Him to remind and reassure you He loves you for who you are as much as anyone else.