Read Luke 15
Focus on verse 20
Not everyone who reads this will be able to relate to having a loving father, I do hope you are one who can. My father was not perfect, no human is, but I never doubted that he loved us, and from what I experienced as a child and young adult, it appeared to me that he did everything he could to assure that we always had what we needed.
In today’s reading Jesus tells a parable of a father who had two sons. The younger son demanded his inheritance early, which in that culture would have been excruciatingly offensive to the father. The father, surprisingly, grants the request and the son leaves home and squanders his inheritance on wild living. When he finally comes to end of his money and the end of himself, the son repents of his foolish arrogance, deciding to return home to offer himself to his father as a servant, not certain of how he would be received.
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (v. 20)
This parable is a picture of how God deals with us. He does not try to prevent us from squandering what He has blessed us with on our own arrogant, selfish desires. He does not try to hold us back from leaving His presence to live our life our own way. The whole time we are gone, He waits for us to return, when, or if, we do return, empty handed and repentant, He is quick to welcome us back into the family.
This parable is also about an older brother, who struggles to accept his younger brother back. He is offended by what appears to him to be the unfairness of his father, and resentment begins to take root.
This older brother is a picture of second generation Christians – those of us who grew up in the church. We never really rebelled or went off to “sow our wild oats”. We were the good kids that did everything by the book, and now we are the good people that lead and control the church and though we know we should be welcoming in the “prodigals” that God sends us, we can’t help being just a little self-righteous. After all, we have put in our time here serving God and all, and now we’re supposed to throw a party for these people? What if they are dangerous? What if they have contagious diseases, or a police record? Can we at least put them in a special class together were they learn how to act like civilized church people before we set them loose in the sanctuary? Okay maybe we don’t actually say it that blatantly, but it sometimes leaks out in subtle ways in our attitudes and actions.
The point is, that if we are going to be an accurate reflection of the character and love of Jesus, then we have to actually learn to reflect the actual love and character of God. If we don’t, we misrepresent who God is, and actually become an obstacle for some folks who might otherwise choose to follow Him.
I wonder what might have happened if it had been the older brother who had met the prodigal son on the road coming home? I can imagine the older brother’s welcome might have gone something like this,
“What the @#%@ are you doing here? I thought you were off to Vegas – never to return! If you had any idea what we went through after you left, you’d have stayed away…it about killed your father! And if you’re here to hit up dad up for more money you can forget that right now – haven’t you done enough?
Interestingly, the Father in the parable deals with the older brothers poor attitude just as kindly as He deals with the younger brothers return. He gently and patiently reminds the older brother that he has had the benefit of constant fellowship with the Father and that everything that remains of the inheritance belongs to him.
A resentful attitude toward those who have made poor choices in life is quite possibly indicative of the presence of a self-righteous spirit in our own life. It reminds me that I have no greater claim to the grace of God than the person whose past sins are more obvious then mine. The Father is equally patient with all of us who ultimately are equally in need of His grace.