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Friday, December 23, 2011

Families, Prodigals and Turkeys [10]

So, what are the applications? As I said at the beginning, Jesus is trying to teach a lesson with this triad of parables. If I could sum it up into a few words, the object lesson is about the extravagant love God has for us. And, as a side note, the extravagant and forgiving love we should have for each other.
The first son, Philip, was obviously lost. He was described as being in a “distant country.” But we can imagine that his father was always hopeful that his son would return home someday. We can almost picture him gazing out at the road every now and them. 
When he finally sees his son, he began to run. No amount of dignity could restrain him. There was no reserve, no holding back on his love.
He didn't make his son go through a trial or a test period to see if he measure. He didn't have his son sign a contract looking for some guarantee that he wouldn't take advantage of him again. The son wasn't even able to give his well-rehearsed confession before his father grabbed him up. This initial embrace was followed by lavish and symbolic display of affection and sonship, i.e., a robe, a ring, new sandals, and a feast. All of these things speak of being restored as a son. 
How God loves lost sons who return home! Do you recognize yourself here?
Then we have Dave, Jr., the older brother. This son is lost in a more subtle way and the feasting brings this out. Jesus said that the elder son was “in the field” as opposed to the “distant country.” He was at home, physically. He was responsible. He was industrious. He would never think of wasting his father’s resources.
When he hears the sounds of a celebration and finds out that his younger brother has returned home, his mind is filled with anger and questions as he approaches the house. “Why is everyone celebrating? Why are the servants not working? Why celebrate the homecoming of my dumb brother who’s made my father look like a fool? Why does he get the party? I’ve been here all of this freaking time, working like a slave, never once left home, and no one has ever done anything like this for me? I’ve been doing this for all of these years and this is what I get for it? He got the calf and I didn’t even get A GOAT!”

By the time he reached the house, he is furious and so angry and jealous that he refused to go inside. He would not dignify the celebration with his presence because, at least in his mind, favor and affection was something that you earned.
Can't you hear the wheels grinding in his head? “I’ve earned the right to have a party in my honor. My brother has not earned it, and yet he’s the one receiving it and that’s just plain wrong. I’m not running around for the likes of him. I'm not going to play into this farce.”
And, although the younger brother blatantly had entered the far country, this older brother had drifted into the same place over time inside his heart. He couldn’t forgive.
And if we think about this, it looks as though the elder son, by the end of the story, where the younger one was at the beginning: far away from home, estranged from his father.
Many of us have gone into the far country much more subtly, just like Dave, Jr. We have not squandered our God-given resources and blessings, but we have wandered away from our fullest potential because of our own bad attitudesnegative thinking or an unforgiving spirit.
Do you recognize yourself in the elder son?


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