Read Luke 15:25-32
“But his elder son was out in the fields, and as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants across to him and enquired what was the meaning of it all. ‘Your brother has arrived, and your father has killed the calf we fattened because he has got him home again safe and sound,’ was the reply. But he was furious and refused to go inside the house. So his father came outside and called him. Then he burst out, ‘Look, how many years have I slaved for you and never disobeyed a single order of yours, and yet you have never given me so much as a young goat, so that I could give my friends a dinner? But when that son of yours arrives, who has spent all your money on prostitutes, for him you kill the calf we’ve fattened!’ But the father replied, ‘My dear son, you have been with me all the time and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and show our joy. For this is your brother; I thought he was dead—and he’s alive. I thought he was lost—and he is found!’” (JBP)
The familiar story of the prodigal son is really the story of two lost sons. One got lost in the pigsties of the far country. The other got lost in staying home doing his duty. The older brother resented the fuss being made of his brother. It wasn’t fair. It didn’t make sense.
Grace is not fairness and doesn’t make sense. But it is the essence of our relationship with God. Not that doing our duty is wrong. Not that squandering our life in the far country is right. Rather, God our father welcomes all who come to him, whether covered in mud or cloaked in respectability. The problem with us more respectable rebels is that we reckon we might deserve a bit more favour.
Then again, why didn’t this older brother ask his father for a goat to celebrate in a feast with his friends? It seems he could have had it. Perhaps he didn’t ask for it because his relationship with his father had drifted into some dutiful formality. No drastic sin, but no thankful celebration or intimacy either.
Respectable rebels like me are invited to leave our own far country of cynicism, self-absorption, pride and resentment. We are invited to join the God-given party. When it comes to love, our God has thrown out the ration book.