Thursday, July 17, 2014

Of older brothers and anguish

Tonight, we had the second week of our home-based discipleship studies. This week we were reviewing the parable of the Prodigal Son. We are all familiar with the story, but most people have never really taken the time to dive into the deep implications of what Jesus is telling the people.

As we were discussing the response of the older brother in the parable, a hypothetical came up: What would this story look like if the older brother would have reacted with the same grace, mercy, and love as the father did when the younger brother returned home?

The thought that ran through my head were the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 9:2-5 "I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen."

The anguish of Paul over the desire to see his brothers come to saving knowledge of Christ is such that he would give up his own salvation for them. This is the heart of a believer who has been affected by the unfathomable grace of God through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The full atonement of Jesus' blood and the imputation of His total righteousness should change our hearts. If the older brother had a regenerated heart within him, his response to the return of his younger brother would have been completely different. I picture a scene where the older brother runs out with his father to embrace the younger. When the father declares to the servants to fetch a robe and ring, the brother would have responded, "Father, if you'll permit me, I will let him have my robe, and my ring. Let him have these that are mine, and sit in my place at your table." He would have then turned to his brother, embraced him, lead him to his seat at the table, and washed the dirt off his feet. He would have been willing to give up everything he had that marked him as a son of this same father, so that his formerly lost brother would be recognized as being back in the sonship.
The father would have turned to his elder son, embraced him, be pleased by the willing heart of his son, and told this son that it was not necessary for him to give up his own sonship for his brother, that there was enough room at the table for them all to sit together. They would have then walked together, into the dining hall, embracing one another, and celebrated the return of a lost brother. All those in attendance would have rejoiced, and the father would have received the glory for the reunion of this family.

We should do the same, as children adopted into the family of our Father, and welcomed to His table. When we see our Father rise up, eyes on the horizon, as His endless pursuit of His lost child continues, when we see Him begin to move toward one who is still far off... we too should rise, and run in the steps of our Father and embrace the returned. Our heart should be one of love, and a love that would sacrifice all we have in order to bring our brother back to the table. Because of the degree to which grace has been lavished upon us, we too should lavish grace of those who approach the table.

Be willing to give up everything for the sake of one... be willing to humble yourself that you would not reject one whom God has called to Himself through Christ.

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