Humanity tends to project its faulty habits onto God. Consider how God’s love is often seen: Many people assume we must barter, plead or try hard to earn the Lord’s favor. But as the Prodigal Son learned, the Father’s love is unconditional (Luke 15:11-24).

The wayward boy returned home, not expecting to be loved as before; all he hoped for was a place among the family’s servants. Imagine the son’s delight at his dad’s greeting of a hug and a celebration. The boy’s actions surely didn’t merit an outpouring of affection, but Jesus’s parable is all about a Father who doesn’t give people what they deserve.

A love based on conduct would keep people wondering, Have I done enough? Instead, God cares for you simply because you’re you, and He expects nothing in return. Consider the Prodigal’s life after his homecoming party. He didn’t move into the servants’ quarters and go to work. He was reinstated to his place as the second son of a wealthy man, with all of the privileges that it entails.

In the same way, believers are the Lord’s cherished children (2 Cor. 6:18). When God looks at His loved ones, He doesn’t focus on their past failures, faults or sins. He sees the heirs to His kingdom — men and women who love Him and desire to spend eternity in His presence.

No matter how far we may wander from the Lord’s perfect will for our lives, we are always welcomed back. The Bible teaches that God’s love cannot be lost, regardless of sin or poor decisions (though we may have to live with the consequences). Our Father’s arms are always open.

Allen Tilley is senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Carthage.

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