In a world which esteems vengeance and penalties and zero tolerance, God’s way is different. How so? The world thinks that God is the unforgiving, wrathful judge. In fact, God wants to show grace and mercy to sinners who blow it – like you and me…
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
The older brother of the lost son didn’t run off to squander his wealth and sleep with prostitutes. He went into the field. To work. Day after day. He is the fine upstanding brother who stayed with his father and worked the farm every day. So we can imagine that he probably doesn’t have many good things to say about his wayward brother. And we can imagine when we hear that our wayward brother has come home, we might not be so thrilled. That loser? That scoundrel? He abandoned us. He took our father’s wealth and he squandered it. He is a good-for-nothing-moron.
And our father is welcoming him back into the house. And instead of punishing him and making him pay for his mistakes, our father is going easy on our brother. He is letting him off the hook. How wrong is that?
In a world in which we esteem vengeance and penalties and zero tolerance, God’s way is different. How so? The world thinks that God is the unforgiving, wrathful, judge of the earth. In fact, God is more like the lost son’s father than we know.
God wants to show grace and mercy to sinners who blow it. And the straight edge brothers who are so righteous and good that they get angry because God is gracious.
This approach ignores the fact that our own sins are just as dirty and dark, even if they aren’t the sexy sins of the prodigal – cheating on your taxes or lying to the boss never looks as bad-ass as prostitutes. Still, sin is sin in the eyes of God, and whenever we start looking down on ‘sinners’ we should probably look closer at ourselves…
That’s our older brother here. He has been slaving for the father, following orders and he feels unappreciated by his dad. The father’s answer is that the righteous are always with him. It’s the unrighteous and sinners who are not. And when a single one of God’s lost ones returns to him, he is going to celebrate and lavish his grace upon such a found one.
As Jesus is telling this story, the listeners are two groups of people, according to Luke 16:1-2: tax collectors, sinners, Pharisees, and teachers of the law. The latter two groups were muttering about how Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them. No duh. Now we know why. They are a bunch of older righteous brothers who don’t get it. God’s grace is lavished on the lost when they turn toward the Father.
And if we don’t feel excited when a scoundrel turns toward God and toward good, then we are positioning ourselves against the grace of God. Not a good place to be. We should always be thinking about the world and people in it the way that God does.
Grace rules the day.