Sunday, March 30, 2014

March 30: An appropriate celebration

Now his older son was in the field. As he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the slaves and asked what was happening. The slave replied, “Your brother has returned, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he got his son back safe and sound.” But the older son became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and appealed to him, but he answered his father, “Look! These many years I have worked like a slave for you, and I never disobeyed your commands. Yet you never gave me even a goat so that I could celebrate with my friends! But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and everything that belongs to me is yours. “It was appropriate to celebrate and be glad, for your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost and is found.”  (Luke 15:25-32  NET)

This is the final part of the passage from the last two days… In the beginning of Luke 15 the Jewish religious leaders criticized Jesus for spending time with and eating together with people they regarded as sinners… tax collectors, prostitutes, the sick, the troubled. The older son in this story represents these people, and those of us today who have the same attitude. If Jesus had refused to help the lost and had spent all His time with the religious leaders, they would have been happy. They didn't care about the sick, the demon possessed, and the disillusioned, just like this older son did not care about his younger brother. He was angry and jealous when his father threw a party to welcome him home.

Jesus said that if we cannot love the people around us whom we can see, then we cannot love God whom we cannot see. These religious people were actually caught in the ridiculous position of being more evil than the “sinners” they despised—their sin was a lack of love and compassion for the suffering, which they did not even identify as a sin. This is a story about God and His mercy toward sinners—even when we’ve disgraced ourselves and treated God like trash, He is ready to help us when we repent and turn to Him.

If our love for God is genuine we will long to see the lost receiving the same mercy and forgiveness that we once received. If we don’t, if we are overly condemning and critical of others—like the older son in today’s passage—we prove that our love for God is empty words.

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