Several times I have listened to sermons about the prodigal son and have been disappointed that the older son’s reaction is either ignored or taken to such an extreme it is hard to personally relate to his reaction toward the return of his younger brother. Once again, in June’s “Searching Scripture,” the older brother was glossed over as probably representing the Pharisees. But who of us really relates with the Pharisees?
In reality, there is a lot to learn from that textual snippet. It is easy to see God’s grace in the father, and hopefully our own repentance in the younger son, but do we also see ourselves in the older son? When newcomers, “two-timers,” or members who have been openly sinful come into the fold, do the faithful of the church welcome them with open arms like the father did? Are they immediately adorned with the garments and privileges of a child of God? Do we include them in the decisions of the church and allow them to participate fully in church life as a beloved son? Or are they made to pay penance, to prove their faithfulness, kept at arms length because, given half a chance, they will probably run away to their sinful ways again? Do unforgiving attitudes drive out those perceived as undeserving? Are we too jealous to include them in the midst of everything?
We could all do well to further reflect upon the older son.
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