Celebrating redemption rather than rejecting people

Published 8:40 am Friday, October 12, 2018


I started Fall Break this past Wednesday and decided to come home for a few days and get some rest. It is always good to see my family and enjoy some good cooking. It has been nice to sleep in my own bed again. Yet, one of my favorite parts of coming home after being gone for so long is seeing my dog, Gizmo, react. Regardless of whose lap he is sitting on when I walk into the living room, he will immediately jump down and run to my bedroom to meet me as I lay my bags down. He isn’t upset and mad that I have been gone for a few weeks. He just wags his little white tail, starts breathing heavy in excitement, and begs me to pet him.
As I bent down to pet my frenzied dog, I was reminded of Luke 15:7. Jesus says, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” Not to oversimplify but I imagined the angels in Heaven getting as excited as Gizmo seeing just one person come home. But is it our reaction?
This verse comes before the story that we all know and cherish: the story of the prodigal son. Here is a quick review anyways. A man has two sons. The youngest takes his inheritance, leaves the house, and blows it all within a few days. He begins to starve due to a famine and a lack of resources. He finally decides to go home. His father sees him, runs to him, and begins to celebrate. He has the servants get some shoes, a robe, a ring, and big ribeye steak to begin the celebration.
That is about how far we all make it in that story. We see ourselves as the prodigal son, but I want to suggest to you that we are probably another character in the story. Verses 25-32 read, “Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”
I think most of us probably relate more to the older son. We have been raised in church. We have seen how others come and go. We are usually in the fields working for the Father. We have served God and the Church for years, and we have tried to do it without complaining or grumbling. We have given our best effort to be faithful to the Kingdom of God. We are workers. We are committed. We don’t take this life lightly. These are the things that we consider worthy of celebration.
However, we find in the parable that the oldest son didn’t get the fatted calf or the robe. It was the son who had “messed up.” It was the son who had “backslid.” It was the son who had “apostatized.” It was the son who had “fallen from grace.” These are all phrases that I have heard before, and I am sure probably even used at some point in my life. We have this tendency to look down on others who haven’t been raised the same way, taught the same Gospel, or lived the same lifestyle we have. For many of us, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that we celebrate those who have chosen the world over Christ, messed up their lives, and made their bed with the swine. But you know something? We may not think we are these people, but we are. We can go through our checklist of sins letting the world know that we haven’t been drunk, high, or sexually active before marriage (the big three), but we are still broken.
The oldest son’s first reaction was to refuse grace and mercy to his younger brother. Many times, our first reaction is to refuse grace and mercy to those we have decided do not deserve it. But the Father’s reaction for us and for them is always to celebrate the redemption of dirty sinners. It doesn’t matter how long we have worked in the fields of harvest or lived in the world of sin, God has loved and died for us all. God has said that no one is disqualified from being a character in His story. No matter what we’ve done, said, or thought, God still celebrates the dead that are alive again and the lost that are now found. God’s love isn’t based on our performance. Therefore, our love for others shouldn’t be based on theirs either. We can’t condemn people to Heaven. We must learn to celebrate them to Heaven.
(The Solution Column is provided by Pastor Brandon Young of Harmony Free Will Baptist Church, Hampton, and his associate, Hunter Greene.)

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