“. . . you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.”
Luke 15:31b-32 (NRSV)
Whenever I read the parable of the Lost Son, I am reminded of the gospel song, “Amazing Grace” written by John Newton who was a slave runner until he was brought to his senses and realized that his work in transporting African slaves was wrong in God’s eyes. He realized the error of his ways, repented, and eventually became a minister. John Newton related to the prodigal son in the parable that Jesus told in Luke 15.
There are many people who have turned their lives around as they recognized the hand of God in their lives, and there are also many who have grown up in the church, thinking that they are Christians by virtue of being part of a church. Maybe we all are a little of each. When I was growing up, my family went to church without fail – no excuses, no matter how hard we kids tried to get out of it. The only time we missed church was if we were sick, and Mom would stay home with us while everyone else went. We never missed. Did that make us Christians automatically? No.
At some point in our lives, we must turn our lives around, confess Jesus Christ as our Savior and really believe it. Those who have been lost understand that. John Newton certainly did. I suspect many of us become lost throughout our lives and find our way back. Does God reject us? No. That’s one of the points of this parable. Another point is that the other brother, who would be a lot like those of us who have been in the church all our lives, was resentful of the welcome and reinstatement of the younger brother. We may not reject someone who has “left the fold” and returned, but what about those who have been long time members who see younger folks or new folks becoming more involved in church activities and committee and resent their “new” ideas. The death of a church begins with resistance to change and the statement, “We’ve never done it that way before.”
The older brother complained because the younger brother had not only disrespected their father and squandered all the money he was given, but then he was allowed to resume his position in the family as a full-fledged son. We really can’t blame him. It’s not fair, and we understand that “not fair” thing, don’t we?
But let’s face it: God isn’t fair. God is love. God offers unconditional love. God gives grace. God welcomes us home again when we have strayed. God welcomes us every moment of every day through the chance to start over, to repent of our sins, and to receive forgiveness of sins. So, maybe we are all the prodigal as well as the other son. Are we ever the father in this parable? Do we offer grace, unconditional love, and do we watch for the newcomer, the poor, the hungry, the imprisoned, the lonely, the sick, the outcast? Do we love them because they are God’s child? Do we care for them because of that generous love of God that we have been given to share? It’s something to think about. God bless your day!