1/22/14 Matt about 22
I’m thinking the main point of the parable of the Prodigal Son isn’t about the prodigal at all. It’s about the older son. Many people on the outside criticize Christianity as being too easy. “You could be a terrible mass murderer, but still get forgiven at the last minute and go to heaven” is generally how I hear it, such as from the young man named Matt at the coffeeshop the other day. He went on to say “I’d rather have a more predictable religion, one where you get punished according to how bad your various sins are, and rewarded according to your good deeds”. Like the prodigal’s older brother, he resented the idea that one could be forgiven without deserving it. And. also like the older brother, he “became angry and refused to go in”. (Luke 15:28) His self-righteous attitude caused him to miss out on the joy of the Father’s forgiveness and generosity. He not only missed out on sharing the joy of his younger brother’s return, but he was left outside himself, stewing in his anger. As we talked there in the coffeeshop, I saw the same smug self-righteousness of the prodigal’s older brother in Matt. He had grown up in a churchgoing family and had been faithfully involved in church activities himself, but became disillusioned by what he saw as God’s unfair forgiveness, never stopping to consider that he might need that same forgiveness himself. He had become an outsider and, gradually, was becoming more and more like the prodigal himself. I want so much for Matt to know that same love and forgiveness that caused the Father to be filled with compassion, to run to his son and throw his arms around him and kiss him, if only he will put away his anger and resentment and come in from the cold.