I have been thinking about the brothers in the Prodigal son story. The temptation is to distance ourselves from the younger son, the immoral one. It's easy to understand why we do that. His request to claim his inheritance even before his father died, was outrageous. In essence, he was looking forward to the death of his father, and couldn't even wait to get his hands on his stuff! Then he wasted it all on immoral living, allowing himself to wallow in the mud with the pigs. He scorned his status as a beloved son, and gave himself away to immorality and base living, ending up eating with the pigs. It's no wonder the older brother stood with his mouth gaping in indignation, as his father ran out to greet his brother, who returned begging to just be a lowly servant. We can feel the older brother's frustration as the father lavished rings and food on the son who had broken his heart. After all, the older brother had been there as the father mourned the departure of the younger son. He had helped pick up the pieces of the family, only to watch his father give his heart away once more to the son who had not only deeply disrespected him, but had wasted the riches the father had worked hard to accumulate. What was happening there? Did the father love the younger son more than the older, stable son, who had always stood by his side.
Why did Jesus tell us the story of the two brothers? Is it because Christian parents often lose one of their children to the influences and deceit of worldly pleasure? I don't think it is of any comfort to share that kind of misery. What loving parent would fail to shudder at the thought of watching a beloved child disappear into the horizon of a most certain disastrous fall? There is no joy in watching the grief of another parent, even in a parable.
Jesus knows that we humans rise to dangerous heights and then endure dangerous falls , up and down on the whims of envy and self promotion. In other words, we are both sons. There is great hope in that realization. Much of criticism that is directed at Christians centers around our propensity to set ourselves up as God, judging the minds, actions and hearts of those we deem "less than" ourselves. I didn't give a lot of forethought to the Chik Filet hoopla last week. I respect the restaurant's policy of closing on Sundays so that their employees have the opportunity to worship on Sundays. I also agree with the definition of traditional families; although, just like young people consider their friends part of their extended family, we cannot control how others define family. I have not read in the Bible that defining family is our job. I do value our 1st amendment right of freedom of speech, but sometimes we should just keep our mouths shut, until we figure out what we really should be saying. The Bible says we should flee sexual sin, and we must. We may have circled our wagons around Chik Filet, but I haven't seen too many computers kicked to the curb, even though Jesus said that lusting after someone is adultery. We paint others' sin in the blackest black while we meander around in our "shades of gray".
Jesus summarized the law in two commandments: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and the second, like the first, love your neighbor as yourself." So Jesus said loving our neighbors is "like" loving God. Jesus said that we would be known as Christians by our love for one another.
Whether we find ourselves in a faraway land, heading home and being welcomed by our loving Father, or we have never strayed from Him, working as One with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, only to be overshadowed by the dramatic transforming work He is doing in others, we must abide in love, considering others more important than ourselves, seeking to serve rather than be served, and living as beloved children of our Heavenly Father. Therein is our home, where He greets His children and has blessed us all with abundant life.