I am not sure that I have ever written about the story Jesus tells in Luke chapter 15. I know that I have thought about it often, and probably journaled about it. We were at a mountain wide missionary prayer gathering yesterday (I know that sounds uber spiritual, but it's really not), and friend of mine mentioned that she had been reading the story of the lost son, and that it seemed every where she turned she was being reminded of it, and more of its meaning was being revealed to her. You know when God is really trying to get his message across it seems like there are big red arrows and flashing neon signs everywhere you turn. Well, the fact that she even mentioned that story was one of those signs for me.
I really love the parables...they are like story time with Jesus. I always loved story time as a child, we would all gather around whichever adult was willing to read to us...the older ones eager to get it over with (too cool for school), the younger ones asleep before the end (who can blame them), but I was somewhere in the middle - enthralled, captured, living the moment in my mind...maybe even in my dreams.
The parables are like the perfect cartoon movie experience. They are so simple to understand that a child can grasp the message...but they are layered with a rich literary goodness to keep the older audience engaged. Everyone leaves with something, everyone gets fed, and if you choose to look deeper you won't be disappointed. The story of the lost son, is no exception.
There are there main characters in the story: The Father, the brother that leaves, and the brother that stays. Now the usual re-telling of the story focuses on the son that basically tells his dad that he wishes he was dead (sounds like a teenager to me) and takes his inheritance and hits the road. He goes out into the world and does anything he wants to...mostly things he knows he shouldn't. He runs out of cash, ends up in the worst spot imaginable. Then he remembers what a good guy his dad is, and returns home hoping beyond all hope that his father will have mercy on him and let him be a servant in his house. As he gets closer to home, the bible even says that he was still a long way off, his father sees him in the distance and runs to meet him. He is gracious and throws his arms around the lost son, gives him some new clothes, a ring and then throws him a big party.
Enter the other brother...the one who stayed behind. He comes back from a long day in the fields caring for his father's flock...no doubt sweaty, dirty, smelly, and exhausted...and walks right into a celebration for his lost brother. But there is no happiness in his heart, no excitement...only resentment, contempt and judgment for this man who disgraced his father, ran off and left him to bear the burden and responsibility of the household that should have been shared by them both.
Pause for the music that conveys the tension between these brothers, and cut to the brokenhearted father in the corner wondering where he went wrong in raising sons that can't get along.
Drama in it's finest folks. Just add in a woman and you have an episode of Jerry Springer.
So the surface message here is that The Father has grace for his sons, and forgives them each in the way they needed it most. The lost son needed redemption...he was already convicted to come home and confess to his father. The other brother needed correction...he was doing all the "right things" with the wrong heart.
The deeper message here, I believe, is that we are both brothers rolled up into one exceedingly complex mess of sin, regret, denial, self-righteous judgement of others, rebellion, resentment, unforgiveness, disrespect, poor stewardship, contempt, and fear. We have let the world use and destroy the inheritance of skills, talents, fortune, and gifts that God has given us...then we turn right around and blame others for our condition. We shower others with judgment when they need the very same grace that we so desperately long for. We resent the work we have been given to do because of something someone else did to us, that they are probably not even aware hurt us like it did. And all of this blinds us to the fact that we already had full access to the Father...Luke 15:31, "Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours."
We have access. The door is open. His grace is sufficient. His love is bigger. There is nothing to fear.
Yesterday my friend said, our goal should be to look to the Father, to be more like Him, and she is right. Thank God that he sees what a mess we are, but extends grace to us anyway - that he sees our need for grace and conviction, for forgiveness and correction. He loves us so much that he will accept us no matter what dumpster we have been diving in AND so much that he will show us the areas that we need to clean up - for our sakes!
I could keep going with this, but this blog is already like a
million words long and I have a lot of work to do today. But, I couldn't do
anything else until I got this out. Thanks for listening to my
ramblings, my thoughts and my confessions...and as always I would love to hear yours.