We are all familiar with the story of the prodigal son. It is a story of grace and the nature of God that is so well told, and so packed with truth, that it transcends history, circumstance, and culture. There are many things that the younger brother can teach us in this story, many things we learn about The Father from the father in the story, and a few things that even the older brother teaches us as well.
As I have been reflecting on this story, there are three things that I think are worth meditating on and disciplining ourselves towards. The story is found in Luke 15. Consider the following:
1) A sense of personal injustice should never stop us from rejoicing at restoration (26)
How sad that we are often so selfish that we let our issues rob others of something so wonderful. The fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about restoration – humanity returning to God. There is no greater joy as when the wandering heart finds its home. Yet how sad that we tarnish such joy with our own selfish issues! We see this played out in our young children when a great gift has been given that isn’t exactly what they wanted. The perceived offense robs the giver of great joy. How often we act childishly about issues of restoration when we should be filled with childlike rejoicing.
2) Being reasonable is not radical enough to change the world (29).
The older brother is, in one sense, incredibly reasonable. His facts are accurate and fair. He had worked diligently and obediently. He had earned, with hard sweat and labor, what his young brother had stolen and abused. But reason alone isn’t enough to change the world. All the logic and reason available could not have offered redemption to the younger sibling. It’s not that reason is bad, just that it’s not enough. It will move us forward, but not far enough forward. Redemption is not reasonable, but it is the only thing that changes the world. Don’t settle for that which is ‘just’ reasonable. Be glad that God is not fair.
3) When we are consumed by pride and our ‘rights’ we are unable to think logically (31).
The father’s response to his son’s rationale is more than reasonable. He affirms the love relationship he has with his son and that everything he has belongs to him. Logically he goes on to explain his delight that his lost son has returned. However, the older son is so eaten up with pride and so consumed with selfishness that he is unable to think logically. How often this is true of us – once our pride is stirred, our feelings hurt and our security challenged and these emotions seem to override our sense of logic – a logic that will create the win-win situation of us being able to both give and to receive the Father’s love.
Don’t have the attitude of this older brother. It’s not one that suits a child of the Father.