So we had 11 people come for our first neighborhood Bible Study on Sabbath. Two people who had never attended from the neighborhood came as well as three who visited from other congregations for the first time. We covered the parable of the "prodigal son" - with an emphasis on both sons. (Luke 15) We used some concepts from the book, "The Prodigal God."
We explored how the sensually oriented younger son wanted control over his own destiny, even at the expense of others. After hitting rock bottom, he was also convinced the father could not accept him back. It was like he didn't think his father could forgive him for all the bad tings he had done with his life. He grossly misjudged his father's reaction - like some of us who think God could never forgive us either.
On the other hand, the morally compliant elder brother was cold, judgmental of his little brother and thought the father even owed him something for his years of service. Funny how he saw his life as "slaving" for his father (NIV - vs 29.)
He didn't see what was missing and his idea that his righteousness was established by being rigidly controlled by a sense of obligation. That attitude robbed him of his father's loving heart. He could not accept the father's judgment either - but from a very different perspective.
One can only imagine the arguing that must have gone on between those two boys when they were growing up. In the story, it was obvious that the elder brother still resented his "sinner" sibling.
It was also as though the younger son expected is father to treat him like the older brother wanted him treated. One wonders if the morally compliant elder brother expected the younger brother to "earn" his way back into the family.
In the first two verses of Luke 15 you see who the audience was: The sensually-oriented tax collectors and "sinners" and the morally "compliant" religious leaders (the Pharisees and teachers of the law.) In a real sense, both brothers had lost their way, though by very different means. Both needed to repent before they could go in and join the celebration.
Interesting how those polar opposite attitudes are still around today - churches, families, political parties - pretty much everywhere. It isn't so much an issue of "balance" between the two extremes. Rather, there is a "wholeness" that integrates both being "real" with God and accepting the moral obligations that come with forming a Christian covenant with God the Father through Jesus Christ.
God knows how bad we can be - and still loves us. He knows how easy it is to judge others and exalt ourselves - and still loves us too.
God understands how easy it is to become extreme - and wants us to be whole, complete and fulfilled as His sons and daughters. Both brothers needed to see a different side of their lives that was hidden to them by the sins of sensuality or self-righteousness. The better we understand and embrace the fundamentals of our relationship with God, the more mature, sound-minded and filled with a sense of purpose we become.
Until next time,