19 October 2009

The prodigal's older brother

A couple of days ago I added a message to a thread on the Koinonia Life Discussion Forum. Jerusalem skylineAfter writing what I had to say (two short paragraphs) I found the Holy Spirit prompting me to continue.

Perhaps you'd like to see it too.

This is what he gave me...

Q - How should we live our lives if we really, really want to honour [the Almighty]? What does he want from us? He rescued us and brought us into the light for a reason. What is that reason? In other words, what does he lack that he wants from us? Does he lack anything? If he already has everything, what can we add?

A - Remember, this is my personal answer. Yours will be different, though all are valid because they are specific to where we are on our particular journey with the Lord.

For me, then, I'd have to say that he wants me to love him with everything that is in me. I think that is basically all he wants, if I do that one thing all the rest will follow day by day. It's not that he lacks anything, just that he loves me like the Father of the prodigal loved his son.

I am so like the prodigal son! The son didn't go home because he loved his father, he went home because he knew he wouldn't starve or die of exposure as his father's worker. He went home because he knew his father was a good person who cared about those under him. He knew that in his father's domain he'd be safe. And he expected nothing more than that.

He left home because he wanted to do things his own way, he wanted to be independent (he sinned). He came home again because he realised how much better that would be (he was convicted and changed his direction). But then he got a big surprise.

When he came close to home (not even there yet) his father came out to meet him and threw his arms around him and kissed him. And a feast was ordered, and new clothes, and a gold ring, and sandals, and a joyful reception as 'my son who was lost and is now found'. Does that sound familiar? It should!

I went to the Father for safety and rescue from death, but I found absolute love and favour as his son. Totally undeserved and totally unexpected.

And now I'm discovering what all prodigal sons and daughters discover. My Father has more for me than mere rescue. His own heart is leaping for joy at my arriving - even before I get to the door. He came out to meet me with a huge beaming grin, a giant hug, and a clean cloak of the finest fabric. He's forgotten the foolish misdeeds of my independent heart, the past is of no interest to him, the only thing he seems to care about is that I am here again - home.

I am not a servant, I am a son! How many believers labour all their lives under the impression they are only paid servants? The thinking goes, 'If I work hard evangelising, preaching, teaching kids, reading the Bible every day, praying regularly and fervently, growing the church, never resting - then I will be rewarded'. But Papa says, 'You are my son, what you have is not earned but inherited. I want your love first: your obedience will follow not because I pay you wages but because you love me.'

He loves me, he always did and (like Wendy Francisco's dog) he is glad I'm back.

If I want to really honour him I will love him back with all of my heart, not just when it suits me but also when it goes against what I want or would naturally choose. I need to stay so close that I hear his voice minute by minute saying, 'This is the way, walk in it'.

And have you ever thought that Jesus is like the older brother? Does that come as a shock? Why would I even say that?

Look at it like this. Jesus is our older brother, he is the firstborn - right? But he didn't behave like the older brother in the story, did he? Instead, he travelled to the country far away from his home, he searched until he found the muddy field where the herd of pigs were eating and discovered his younger brother who was ready to eat pig food because he was starving.

And our older brother not only paid the price for our sin, but he also came and found us and said, 'Come on home, you have wasted your share of the inheritance but half of Dad's infinite supply is still an infinite supply. I will share my portion of everything with you. Come on home, Dad is pacing up and down waiting for us. His heart will leap with joy when he sees you. Leave the pigs, come on home. You are not only forgiven, you are also loved and missed. Come home.

Jesus is the older brother, but with compassion and the same love as the Father. And that's the difference that he wants us to understand. The older brother in the story had no grace, but our older brother IS grace!

So what can I do to honour Papa and my Older Brother? Nothing. Except for one little thing - love Dad with everything that is in me, and love those around me like I love myself. Isn't that what Yahshua said to do? Isn't that exactly what he himself does? He loves his Dad and he loves us. So follow his example. That's all - no paid work! Just love.

Grace and peace to all, from the Father and the Son!


PS - So why did Jesus describe the older brother the way he did? I think there are several reasons, including the usual interpretations that are given about the superior way we sometimes treat others, including the way the Jews often viewed the Gentiles 2000 years ago, and the way the church often views Judaism today. Father, forgive us! But perhaps he also wants us to see that he doesn't treat us the way we are used to being treated. Perhaps he's saying, 'Hey, that's an ordinary, worldly brother. But I'm not like that brother'.

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