This is not an original idea of mine, but my thoughts on a little sermon I heard yesterday from Andy Stanley.
Most of us have read the story of the prodigal son. few of us have really understood it completely, most of us think we have forgiveness in our hearts, but do we really? how much time do many of us spend harboring an unforgiving attitude at people around us?
The parable Yeshua relates is about a Father and his two sons, the elder, a steady responsible young man who worked tirelessly for his father and the younger son who, it seems lacks a bit in heart and mind. one day this youngster walks up to pops and says "hey pops!, you know one day a portion of your wealth will be mine, but dang it you 'aint dying fast enough to suit me pops, I want my share now! I got important things I want to do NOW and it looks like you 'aint going to kick off fast enough to suit me."
So, what does the 'ol man do? he GIVES it to him! do you believe that shit! can you wonder what the neighbors think! can you wonder what Yeshua's audience was thinking? many of these were sinners and publicans, publicans being civil servants, government workers, in that time and place any people working for the Roman government was considered the lowest of the low by the "church" leadership of the time. and on the other side of the room was the church leadership itself, who quite simply could not understand how a teacher of scripture could dare allow himself to be associated with the lowly sinners sitting around him. consider their thoughts of this story. even the most self centered man there probably thought to himself that this young man in the story was a real lowlife bastard right? anyhow, back to the story:
our young jackass packs up and goes to a faraway city and spends his inheritance on wine, women, and song until he wastes the entire sum. then the economy takes a dive and the only job this young Jew can find is taking care of some dude's hogs. now, Imagine what our teachers audience is thinking now! surely the fine church leaders, the scribes and pharisees are thinking this young prick got what he deserved, right? I imagine even the commoners and sinners in the room are thinking the same thing too, there is probably complete consent in the whole room of scribes, pharisees AND publicans, common folk, and sinners that this little jerk got his just desserts eh? bet this is the end of the story right? nope, the teachers story goes on:
after a while the jerk thinks "hey, pops servants get better treatment than this, they got clothes to wear and food to eat, I'm going to go home and beg pops to take me back as his lowest servant. at least my Jewish father won't have any disgusting hogs to tend. I will confess my gross sin, and declare my unworthiness to be called his son, I can maybe tend his goats or something." so off our little jerk goes back home to pop, working out the little speech he's going to give to beg for any lowly job pop might have to give him. (pay attention to what happens now!) when he was yet a far way off his father saw him, had COMPASSION on him and RAN TO him and hugged him around the neck, and even before our jerk could ask forgiveness pop's orders servants to bring out his best robe, shoes, and a ring for his hand, (many of you folks today may not know what the ring signifies, but it means pop recognizes him as his SON). but, not only that, but orders the servants to kill the fatted calf and organize a party! call all the neighbors, church fellows, and family! it's party time! can you imagine the shock this crowd got when they found out what the party was for? oh, you remember pop's youngest, the brat who demanded his inheritance to run off and carouse with the whores, drunks, and dope heads in the faraway city? yeah, well he came back to pop's house in rags and smelling of hogshit and we're having the biggest party we ever had over it!
now cue the older brother, the older loyal, steadfast brother. upon hearing all the commotion asks one of the servants what's going on? and HE hears all this shit! and great indignation wells up within him! why how DARE Pop's have a party for that sorry asshole brother of mine when I worked hard and took care of all the chores and never balked once at all Pop's asked ME to do and he never so much as gave me a kidd of the goats to have a little party with my friends! what shit is this? Can you share in this brother's indignation? what think you? you can bet the scribes Pharisees and temple elders probably could. but what about you? look here what happens next:
Pop said to his older son "you were ever with me, all that I have is yours, it is RIGHT that we should be happy, because your little brother was dead, and now he lives, was lost but now he's found."
All that is important to Pop in this story is that they are together, present in each others company. no "what ya done for me lately." no "I'm right, you're wrong". nothing like that. Pop required no explanation, heck the brat did not even have time to say his little speech to his father before his father saw him "a long way off" and had compassion on him. Pop's knew before he heard a word what he was going to do for this wayward son. do you disagree with Pops? do you realize just who you are disagreeing with? All of us want redemption, but I often wonder why it seems to me that many people want to think they have some sort of "special" relationship with the lord that someone else doesn't have, like MY relationship with the Lord is better than YOUR relationship with him because I did this and that but YOU did that and this. YOU associate with the wrong crowd, YOU don't go to Church enough, YOU don't pray as loud or as often as I do. etc. etc. etc. This list can go on forever. but do we really want a Lord that will save only as some payment for some work we have done? if you run faster than your neighbor you win he doesn't? is that how ya want it? thankfully, that's not the case. Salvation is solely the work of Yeshua. and nobody can boast of any great work having gotten him or her any extra favor towards salvation. Hooray for that!