Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Resignation of an Older-Brother Society Member

Of The Three Characters...
It's probably the most famous of Christ's stories. The story of the Prodigal Son. There are three obvious characters within this story: the father, the younger son and the older son.
Jesus no doubt told this story to tell us something truly beautiful about His Father: God is our Heavenly Father who graciously forgives the repentant. No doubt Jesus told this story also to show that there is always hope for the wayward. But less obviously, the story tells us something about those who have not drifted away. It speaks to those who have remained dutiful and loyal. Jesus lovingly rebukes the older brother types for being like the older brother who refused to show grace to the very undeserving younger brother.

As a paid-up member of the Older Brother Society, Jesus' story cuts me deep. It is actually quite scandalous what Christ is asking of me! He is asking me to welcome in to the community of our Heavenly Father's house the worst kind of sinners! He is charging me to not merely welcome such sinners back into the community of faith, but to celebrate their return! What?!
Luke 15:24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.
As all Older-Brother Society members know, younger brothers can be irritating! The very thought of having to not only welcome them into our house, but to celebrate their return is simply outrageous! In fact, it's downright annoying! It can make any dues-paying Older-Brother angry!
Luke 15:28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,
But if I am going to love the Father as Jesus is entreating me to, I'm afraid I have an announcement to make to the Society colleagues: I can no longer remain an Older Brother. I'm afraid to say that I can no longer just be dutiful to our Father - I must delight myself in what brings delight to our Father. And it seems that He takes great delight in not only welcoming home repentant sinners, but He actually wants such occasions celebrated!
To be a Father-delighting church we have to join our Heavenly Father on the verandah and look for returning younger brothers. Not only do we have to look, we have to overlook certain things about what our younger brothers have done. We also have to celebrate the lost being found! There will be times when we do things together as a church that are entirely focussed on reaching out to returning younger brothers.
Luke 15:20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
Younger brothers might swear. Younger brothers might smoke. Younger brothers might be promiscuous. Younger brothers might be wasteful. Younger brothers might be downright stupid! But the Father sees them "a long way off" and feels "compassion" for them.
Luke 15:29 but he answered his father, 'Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends.
Profoundly, this most famous of Christ's stories does not have a conclusion. It just hangs. We read at the opening of Luke 15 that there were two groups who gathered to hear Jesus. The first were Tax-Collectors and sinners. Hmmm, sounds like the "younger brother" in this story. The other group that gathered were the Scribes and Pharisees. Hmmmmmmm, sounds like the "older brother" in this story. It's now pretty clear to me that Christ wants us as a church to be neither the younger nor the older brother - but to be like the father who has compassion on both younger brothers and older brothers.
Father, we wnat to be like You. We want to look for the wayward. We want to welcome them back in to our Father's House. Lord, help us to celebrate the return of younger brothers. Give us Your grace to forgive our 'younger brothers' who offend us. Help us to delight ourselves in You and Your cause. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Eph. 3:21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
Ps. Andrew

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