This last week at church we heard about the prodigal son. I love the concept that the father ran out to meet his son. One of our pastors pointed out that in context of Jesus’ story, a noble rich man wouldn’t run, he would calmly walk out if he walked out at all. But in this story, the master of the house runs out to meet his lost son, thereby showing us that our Heavenly Father runs to meet us. That’s how much He loves us!
(And who better to explain to us how much we are loved than the Son? Jesus only told the truth, he never needed to embellish.)
So who was grumpy? The older son. He came out and said, “…all these years I have been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders…” In context, he was angry, disappointed and didn’t understand why his father would take back a son who had basically said he hated his father so much he wanted his share of inheritance before he died so he could live as if he was already dead. Who can’t agree with that hurt?
But the real rub is in what the older son believed. You see, he thought following the rules were what would make his father love him. But in just following the rules, he remained a slave and missed the joy of what it meant to be a son, a child that would inherit his father’s kingdom.
Today, I would posit that we have many Christians that are grumpy. They are more interested in following the rules than knowing their faith. That stringent, sanitary attitude does not lead to true Christianity, only a big letdown.
The last few weeks have been very telling for all Christians. With the stepping down of the current Pope Benedict XVI and the conclave of cardinals meeting to discern who should be next, every media outlet has taken its turn at potshots on that particular aspect of Christianity. Other Christians have lent a hand at throwing darts as well, perhaps forgetting that all Christians should step forward for each other.
What people don’t realize is that their history becomes clear when they write about others. It is clear when a “recovering” Catholic writes about his previous faith because he is hurting and feels betrayed by his past. Protestant Christians are also unmistakable when they take potshots at things they don’t fully understand. However, the most transparent writers are atheists because they feel vindication in hopes that they don’t have to believe in God because now that a Christian sect shows human frailty.
However, what is clear is this. Jesus told the truth. Always. To be Christian means to be Christ centered. Period. Christ, his Father and the Spirit come first. Always.
What about the rules? Jesus gave us those too, but being human we tend to be literal and forget there is a spiritual aspect to our being. Therefore, we bend the meaning, or look at the words at face value, never truly diving into the meaning of the words Jesus spoke.
As Christians we are obligated to understand history, in particular the history of the world as Jesus saw it, so we can be responsible for understanding his “rules.” Truly, to love God with your whole heart, whole soul, and whole mind, is to understand what it means to be Christian. That means to love without borders and love even when it hurts.
So I encourage you to look at yourself. Are you following the rules to be following the rules? Are you digging deep to understand what it means to love at all costs? Or do you remain lodged deeply in your thinking because someone else told you this is what Christianity looks like?
In other words are you joyful or are you grumpy?
Perhaps you’ve been away from Jesus so long you think that there is no way He will want you back. And that’s exactly why Jesus told the story of the prodigal son.
I have a secret. Mercy is at your doorstep. For just as the prodigal’s father ran out to meet him; our Father will run out to meet us in the form of the Spirit when we ask for forgiveness, for knowledge, for understanding or for love. Encountering mercy allows us to know joy.
And there is no way you can continue to be grumpy if you know joy.