COLUMN: A father who loved

Published 4:24 pm Wednesday, June 28, 2023

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Steve Jobs was a prominent American business figure, and his legacy company continues to be a powerful driver in both the business and consumer electronics sectors. His illness and early death at 56 years-old, from pancreatic cancer, were well-chronicled because over the previous 15 years his innovations at Apple had pushed him to the forefront of the entrepreneurial scene.

What is so easy to forget is that all the Apple smartphones, the iPad, the smart watch and all his other ideas came during his second chance. Differences with his own board of directors had resulted in Jobs being removed as CEO of Apple, the company he had co-created way back in 1985.

In the interest of being clear, Steve Jobs did not exactly sit around during that time. He created a new company that was colorfully called “nExt.” He funded a new computer animation venture called Pixar Films. But, his baby had been taken away from him.

In 1997, Apple merged with nExt, a move that placed Steve Jobs back at the helm. He promptly picked up where he had left off and dazzled the world with innovations that continued to roll off the assembly lines years after his death. By the time of his death, Apple had regained its place as a technology and innovation leader.  

Is there anything more compelling than a second chance? Is there a story more satisfying than someone making good use of a fresh start? 

This past Sunday was Father’s Day. 

If I have learned two things in life, one is that there are few things as satisfying as tying down loose ends. Bringing resolution, finding answers, getting to a natural end point. We strive to tie down loose ends. The other thing I’ve learned, though, is that you don’t always get to do that. 

You don’t always get the kind of story we heard Jesus tell as a parable in Luke 15: 11-32. Maybe on this Father’s Day I reflected on my own late dad. Things that went unsaid. Things that went unexplored. 

Anytime we do get that kind of resolution, I think we should cherish it. When we see the chance to try for a reunion, resolution, understanding or a reconciliation, we should work for it.

But, I have to caution you. I have discovered that there can be a trap with this story that is so easy to fall into. None of us like to fall into one. We warn each other about things like that all the time. Well, the trap in this story is an easy one to fall into. The whole reason Jesus was telling this story in Luke was because people who were of influence in the church had fallen into the trap. They thought that no one whose life was a little dinged up and no one who had fallen on hard times was in God’s favor. They assumed that no one who was doing things a little unconventionally should be loved or accepted by them because surely, they had convinced themselves, God couldn’t love those very same people either.

This parable is a story that begins with bad decision-making. But it is a story whose purpose is to show that all are God’s children and that all can receive an unmerited, grace-filled second chance from a loving and redeeming God.

Don’t miss it. This is a parable that was brought on when Jesus responded to the judgmental Pharisees and Scribes casting aspersions on the kind of company He was keeping. Shouldn’t there be standards? Of course.

Shouldn’t there be morals and guidance that is God-driven? Isn’t there “sin” all around us and shouldn’t we guard against it? I’m afraid there is. Shouldn’t this spoiled, over-expectant, selfish child portrayed in the parable have been left to the brokenness that he had brought onto himself? Turns out, that wasn’t the way God sees things. 

We can read this parable and wonder how is it possibly fair to the older brother that when the homecoming happens, a lavish party is thrown? He has a right to his indignation, we think. And, that’s the trap. That’s it right there. 

I wasted years hearing this parable dissolutely. Because we squander this story, this beautiful parable, the minute we hear it as anyone else’s story but our own. Fact is, we need to hear this story of a father who loved because it is a portrait of God. In our own fathers’ best days, perhaps they too showed us glimpses of God.

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.