I was thinking about my blog post from last week about Jonah, and how he struggled with God’s goodness. And how most of us want mercy for ourselves and justice for those who have hurt us.
Another great example, this time from the New Testament, is the famous parable of the Prodigal Son.
He leaves home to find himself and ends up chasing a bunch of things that lead to nothing but pain and emptiness. When he finally hits rock bottom, he comes home hoping he could just be a servant in his father’s household. But it completely shocked him that his father welcomes him home with open arms and wants to throw a party celebrating that he’s finally home.
And everyone is happy right?
There’s another brother. The brother who apparently has done everything “right.”
The brother who goes to church every Sunday.
The brother who didn’t go through a divorce.
The brother who’s never been arrested.
The brother who’s never been caught looking at porn.
The brother who’s never been fired.
The brother who’s never publicly failed.
Not only is this brother not super pumped about the party, he declares that he’s not even going to the party. He doesn’t think his little screw-up brother deserves to be welcomed home, and he sure as hell isn’t about to go to a party celebrating and honoring him.
And let’s be honest, the elder brother has a rational point in a way. I mean, what is there to celebrate?
What’s this party about?
Is the party about his wise decisions? Nope.
Is the party about the fact that the trip went well? Nope.
What does this kid have to celebrate?
One thing: dad still loves him.
This party is about the unending and passionate love of a father who never gives up.
Confession time: I’ve been the prodigal. And maybe if I’m really vulnerable, I’m still kind of on the long, scary and humiliating journey home. I’ve also met a lot of other people on that same journey home who, like me, their journey home has been made much more difficult by running into the spirit of the elder brother along the way. In fact, many of them have just flat out given up on the unending love of the father because they’re just so discouraged and beaten up by the spirit of the elder brother.
And I just think that’s tragic.
So, I just want to encourage all of you prodigals and screw-ups who have unfortunately run into the older brother before you found the open arms of the father: keep going, keep journeying, and don’t let the judgmental attitude of the older brother keep you from the unending love of the father.
And I want to encourage all you “elder brothers” out there: I know that you feel like you’ve made all the right decisions, and therefore have earned your place in the family. I know that you feel like this party is a little premature because, “what if they mess up again?” What if they haven’t learned their lesson? What about tough love?
And you’re right, the prodigal has done so much wrong. I know this party doesn’t make sense to you. The math just doesn’t add up. But here’s the deal: this party is going to happen with or without you.
So if you just want to sit at home and complain about how the party doesn’t make sense, that’s your right. But why not join the party? Why not grab some balloons and get your dancing shoes on and celebrate them how Jesus would?
We’re going to throw grace around like confetti and run towards those journeying home.
Because when God looks at you, he doesn’t see a:
Or a screw-up.
He sees His son…His daughter…as:
End of story. Begin the party.