The story of the prodigal son - a beautiful story of repentance and redemption...for the prodigal. I usually like to stop reading before the older brother catches the news of the wasteful younger sibling's return. Why? Because it sounds too much like those who have never walked away from the Lord sometimes act!
The Father hasn't thrown a party for us, though we have been faithful. The Father hasn't run to the end of the driveway to embrace us, though we have stayed near Him. Does the older brother assume that the blessing of being near the Father is to enjoy the perks that the younger is apparently now enjoying...even after blowing his inheritance in a horrible way?
Does he not get it that the true inheritance, the true blessing, is being near the Father? He has been there the whole time, yet has missed it! Rather than be thankful that he has enjoyed the nearness without fail, he reminds the Father of his brother's failures. He holds the past over his brother's head, though the Father has forgiven it. How sad!
We can look at the older brother and act like we have never felt that way. I remember earlier on in my relationship with the Lord, that I realized that I loved the feeling of "coming back" to the Lord after I had spent a season not really seeking Him, not really staying in tune with Him...stumbling. I loved how it felt to have Him bring me to a place of conviction, repentance, and restoration. Just the feeling of being celebrated like the prodigal, though I had not walked away completely - it was a great feeling. But when I realized that this wasn't what He really wanted - that He wanted me to stay and grow - that was a different dynamic entirely.
There is something so special for the prodigal who returns to open arms. But there is also something so special for the older brother who never leaves the Father's side. There may not be a consistent feeling of celebration, but there is a relationship bond that the prodigal has missed. I challenge the older brothers to be thankful that you stayed, rather than angry that someone else didn't. You got to be near Him the whole time.
Father, I love that I can call you that. Thank You for Your mercy and Your grace, the way You have been so constant. We run away, and we stay and complain. Either way, You are faithful. Please forgive us for ALL that we do wrong. In Jesus' Name. Amen.