Sometimes I strive so hard at living with the most excellent virtue, in absolute piety, in “Christian perfection” of sorts that I become more and more strained, confined and closed in. We can be so dependent upon upholding the rules and expectations we place on ourselves that we forget the relationship we were intended for.
I think of the comparison between the prodigal and his brother. I think of the difference in the levels of intimacy with the father they both resemble. I find that in his brokenness and humility, the prodigal experiences far greater intimacy with the father than does his sinless, pious and self-righteous brother.
The true site of the Christian disciple is one of a man or woman who is able to praise God for all things, including his own sin, he who is not obsessed with the perfect portrayal of self and spirituality. She who is not complacent and shackled by a practical life. He who strives more for the relationship than the rules and understands that he has, is and will fail but can realize that God expects more failure from him than he ever does from himself. She who realizes we do not have to come groveling to God with a clear presentation of our sins and failures IN ORDER TO BE forgiven, but realizes the prodigal’s father did not ask for an explanation, and Jesus did not ask the adulterous woman for an apology or confession. The disciple realizes that we will not be judged now or in the end for our sins because we have already been judged and found not guilty, but that God desires we show up in his embrace and accept his love.
The church today is full of younger prodigal sons who are broken and beat down after retreating away. They retreated after they realized that God and the church itself do not always meet their expectations.
The church today is full of older brothers who sit and watch the broken prodigals come crawling through our doors. They watch with indignation and disgust; realizing that they have been obedient and honorable this whole time while the prodigals live a life of sin.
The church today fatally lacks Fathers who run to the broken with joyous tears and arms. The absent father would be a refreshing open tenderness and mercy for those in the church today. We greatly need but equally lack fathers and mothers who rejoice at the return of a prodigal and still proud of the older brother.
There are two problems!
ONE: I myself am a prodigal and an older brother, but rarely a father.
TWO: The church is full of prodigals and older brothers but lacks Fathers.
My heart breaks to know many Christians and I have disregarded certain people because they’ll buy booze with my change, they got themselves into this lifestyle, or their parents were piss-poor. It breaks my heart the most to realize I focus more on HOW they got there than the fact they ARE there.
I am broken at reading the story of the prodigal son and knowing the father did not withhold compassion because the prodigal chose this life. I am hurt not to find the prodigal’s father within me and my friends; this father who realized only one thing in the moment. He realized his son needed compassion and love. YES, his son DID choose this life. His son DID use the father’s money for booze, sex and other disgusting things. These are all realities, but the father chose to realize only one thing: his son needed compassion, love and relationship.
I am broken at the reading of the prodigal son’s brother and finding myself resonating, “Exactly! He’s been there at home serving his Dad faithfully. And now look!”
I am broken to my lack of compassion, love and relationship with the least of these.
Are these things excuses for these people’s current life choices? No, but I cannot overlook the fact it just may be part of the reason. Never mind how they got where they are; the fact remains, these people need compassion, love, relationship, and Jesus, and I have all of these to offer.