Holiness: Becoming the Father

8 02 2011

Henri Nouwen, at the end of his book, The Return of the Prodigal Son, points out the stunning fact that the prodigal son (and the elder son who stayed home) would eventually be required to grow up and take their father’s place. They too, one day, would have to deal with wayward and resentful children. The story doesn’t really end with the homecoming, as tremendous as that is. We come home to God where He can fill us with his joy and love so that we, in time, can grow up to be like Him—just like Him. This is holiness and Jesus shows us the way, is the way, and empowers us along the way.

Nouwen offers this penetrating look into the Father’s heart (pg. 111, emphasis mine):

The same God who suffers because of his immense love for his children is the God who is rich in goodness and mercy and who desires to reveal to his children the richness of his glory. The father does not even give his son a chance to apologize. He pre-empts his son’s begging by spontaneous forgiveness and puts aside his pleas as completely irrelevant in the light of the joy at his return. But there is more. Not only does the father forgive without asking questions and joyfully welcome his lost son home, but he cannot wait to give him new life, life in abundance. So strongly does God desire to give life to his returning son that he seems almost impatient. Nothing is good enough. The very best must be given to him. While the son is prepared to be treated as a hired servant, the father calls for the robe reserved for a distinguished guest; and, although the son no longer feels worthy to be called son, the father gives him a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet to honor him as his beloved son and restore him as his heir.

Right now, those denominations who claim a “holiness” heritage are quickly losing (and have been losing for some time now) a clear articulation on what holiness is and how one can become holy. I want to propose here that we first teach and preach and live out a holiness that is based upon Christ’s promise of abundant life, life to the full! Because holiness is becoming like Christ, and like the Father—and the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are the givers of life, and full to over flowing with life. We are meant to be as well!

Nouwen states succinctly (pg. 123, emphasis mine):

in the Father’s house requires that I make the Father’s life my own and become transformed in his image.

Jesus shows us perfectly what it means to be the son of the Father– He only ever does what He sees the Father doing. This is also our goal and destiny in Jesus Christ.

Again, Nouwen explains this so well (pg. 127):

This is divine sonship. And it is to this sonship that I am called. The mystery of redemption is that God’s Son became flesh so that all the lost children of God could become sons and daughters as Jesus is son. In this perspective, the story of the prodigal son takes on a whole new dimension. Jesus, the Beloved of the Father, leaves his Father’s home to take on the sins of God’s wayward children and bring them home. But, while leaving, he stays close to the Father and through total obedience offers healing to his resentful brothers and sisters. Thus, for my sake, Jesus becomes the younger son as well as the elder son in order to show me how to become the Father. Through him I can become a true son again and, as a true son, I finally can grow to become compassionate [and holy] as our heavenly Father is.

This desperately needs to be taught, preached and lived out in our churches and in our homes. I pray the Lord help us!




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