Can you imagine two pigs comparing pig pens? After all, they’re both pigs. It’s unimaginable that pigs may compete for which pig has the cleanest pig pen, and it should be equally unimaginable that Christians may ever forget the filth from which they have been saved. Anyone who has walked away from God understands Christ’s telling of the Prodigal Son. Sadly, former Prodigals forget their own testimony and withhold mercy and forgiveness from repentant Christians who are returning from pig pens of their own making creating feelings of inadequacy, insecurity, and paranoia. It creates quite a dichotomy between the examples provided by the Father that is taught to us by Christ, and the actual behavior often exhibited by Christians. Are Christians creating an atmosphere that encourages “Prodigal" Behavior?
To answer this question let’s first re-examine the behavior of the Prodigal. The Prodigals’ relationship with the Father lacked intimacy and authenticity. This is apparent because the Prodigal in asking for his inheritance early is essentially stating that his father’s value is greater if the father is dead. The Prodigal desires his independence, but he is obviously ungrateful. He chooses his instinct to fight for a significant life, and chooses poorly. While it’s easy to grasp a tremendous truth by glossing over the all too familiar teaching, we must dig deeper and ask why?
Some insight as to why the Prodigal wanted to leave may be gained by examining the older brother’s protest while the Father celebrated the Prodigal Son’s return.
We don’t know thought for thought what the Prodigal was thinking when he left home. We do know that he wanted to get as far away from his family as possible because we are told that he went to a “far away country.” With a brother like his do you blame him? Realizing that the consequences of the Prodigal’s decision to leave his father resulted heartbreak, humiliation, and hunger, and not justifying his decision, the Prodigal must been pretty ostracized, at least by his own reckoning to make such a rash life changing decision. Could it be that the resentment of the older brother existed before the Prodigal made his exit?
It should never be forgotten that both of the brothers rejected the father. First, the Prodigal rejected his father’s love by running far away from it. Second, the older brother rejected the father’s love by not sharing in the father’s love and celebration for the return of his sibling.
There are countless Prodigals in Christianity, and there are an equal number of “Older yet resentful Brothers.” It’s surprising as to how many former Prodigals turn into Older Brothers as they are restored, forgetting their former pig pens, or wrongfully assuming their pig pens were miraculously cleaner than a repentant Christian returning to the love the father. This “older brother mentality” does not relate to age, experience, or position within the Body of Christ; rather it extends to any and every aspect of the Christian religion. Religiosity is the result of one’s assumption that Gods’ love, blessings, and release of one’s destiny are based on anything other than the Grace of Jesus Christ.
More than anything, the Older Brother misses out on a party! Don’t miss out on a celebration of God’s love in which you get to participate! While there are countless ways to show the love of Christ, here are five things you can do to avoid being The Older Brother.
1. Don’t assume you’re the only Prodigal. Here’s a little secret, if it’s in the Bible it’s probably for you too, including the part about the Older Brother. You might be acting like an Older Brother to someone else, and not even realize it, and they may even be older than you! That’s right, you’re behavior towards someone else maybe filled with so much religion that you fail to see their total potential because of their past, or religious and cultural bias that you’re creating a Prodigal Atmosphere.
2. Never forget that we are all born of a Pig Pen. That’s right! Everyone is born into sin. Some people have testimonies of getting saved a younger age and straying from God, and others accept Christ at an older age. Christs’ teaching applies to anyone in the Body of Christ. It teaches us that Gods’ love is bigger than our greatest mistakes and bigger than our rejection of God when we run from His love.
3. Focus on celebrating God’s mercy and love instead of the consequences of the Pig pen. The Older Brother approaches his father with a list of specific indictments against his sibling, hoping that if he paints a bad enough picture to his father, that his father will reconsider the celebration. The Older Brother’s plan doesn’t work. There are two primary reasons Christians love reminding people about the consequences of past and confessed sins. First, to justify one’s own lack of faith in pursuing something he or she has been called to do. Second, to limit someone else in their pursuit of great things God has in store for a returning Prodigal’s destiny due to their own inadequacy and jealousy. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28. “All things,” means that the past, present, and future work together for good!
4. Watch for returning Prodigals with our Heavenly Father and pursue Prodigals following the example God has given us. “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” Luke 15:20
5. Look upon your brothers and sisters in Christ as fellow heirs to a coming Kingdom, never assuming that “they’re the ones with the problem.” It might be you! As fellow heirs, God empowers and enables all of His children to do the impossible. Celebrate God’s love for your brothers and sisters in Christ, and in doing so, you share in a glorious moment with God, for when a Prodigal returns, he or she is not returning to a list of indictments and consequences; rather, God’s response is…