You probably know about the prodigal son. Jesus told the story, its found in Luke 15. It went something like this. There was a father. He had two sons. The youngest asked for his inheritance. The father gave him a very large sum of money and the younger son left home. He then spent all he possessed in every self-centered destructive way possible. After he was broke, destitute, and desperate, he came home and begged forgiveness of his father. He was forgiven. He had an older brother…
Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”The older brother became angry and refused to go in.”
“So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
The father then says something profound and revealing.
“My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours” (Luke 15:25-31).
Essentially, “Son, why would you be out slaving for me, all I have and all I am is available to you, no slaving required. You have access to it simply because you are my son.”
The older son’s frustrated interaction with his dad reveals that, just like his younger brother, he didn’t truly know his father’s love nature. He “slaved” in a works-based understanding instead of co-laboring in a relational, intimate revelation of his dad’s love. He was a slave for his father because He didn’t truly know his father’s heart toward him.
Because he didn’t truly know his dads heart, he couldn’t truly know who he was nor could he understand how his dad could celebrate his brothers return. He was essentially saying, “Why on earth are you celebrating my brother? What’s he done for you lately?”
What’s scary to me is that when we misunderstand God as someone to slave for, when we don’t know Him as a good father and ourselves as sons and daughters, we not only miss out on our inheritance, we actually find ourselves sided against Him. When we slave, we are unable to celebrate mercy or grace in our own lives, let alone the lives of others. The scary thing about slaving, besides the fact that it sucks, is that it will actually position us against the very Father we think we serve.
There are a lot of older brother rumblings coming from the church today—religious slaves seeking judgment for failed, lost, deceived, and even restored prodigals. In fact, I would guess much of the world sees the church as the older brother, slaving for a Father while wagging our finger in judgment at a lost, lonely, broken, and confused world.
Here’s what I believe: the desire to see judgment come to a lost sinner, a fallen, or even a deceived saint, is not the heart of the Father—ever.
I was in a conversation with a friend the other day and essentially said just that. He challenged me with, “So are you saying we shouldn’t confront and expose lies and immorality?”
“Only if we can do it without taking our eyes off Dad (Love),” I said.
It’s easy to become offended when you are not living in a daily revelation of love.
When we take our eyes off our Father and His perfect love for us, we forget why we are here. We become more interested in defending a set of principles than revealing love. Jesus didn’t come to defend a gospel; He came to reveal the perfection of our Father’s love. It’s religious vanity to think we are here to do anything different.
I have met many Christians and even read a few books that would rather focus on the problem instead of the answer. Sadly, much of the church is playing the part of the older brother and calling it Christianity.
God doesn’t want to be defended but He loves to be revealed.
Allow me to repeat: Jesus wasn’t concerned with defending a gospel. He was too busy revealing the Gospel—His Father’s always-good love. He lived miraculously, died selflessly, and rose powerfully, all so we might be restored back to our place in the family—as sons and daughters of God. All so we might have full access to our inheritance— the love nature of our Father.
If we don’t know our Dad and His always-good love, we are forced to live in the insecurity of slavery, under the weight of self help christianity, and we are compelled to defend a gospel. If we don’t know our Father’s love, then, like the older brother, we will find ourselves in direct opposition to our Dad. And you know what direct opposition looks like? Judgment.
God, forgive us for judging when we were created to love.
Jason Clark is an author, singer/songwriter, speaker, and pastor. Jason’s passion is to know the love of God more each day. He lives to see a generation step into their identity as sons and daughters of the King and establish His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. He and his wife, Karen, live in North Carolina with their three children. Jason’s new book Prone To Love is available now.