“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” (NLT)
It was the end of a very encouraging and refreshing Christian conference. Many of the thousands in attendance were singing and laughing and waving their arms high. God had blessed them. Two figures at least did not join in. They leant over a far balcony, clipboards in hand, discussing and analysing between themselves what was going on. Later they did in fact come out in writing to criticise what had happened in that place.
That sight was something of a parable of Christian life and experience. Some jump in and celebrate what God is doing; others sit on the sidelines figuring out whether it is proper and orthodox. Such analysts will certainly not get caught up in wild heresy, but nor will they likely experience a fresh and surprising work of God.
A bit like the older brother in the story of the Prodigal Son. In one sense he did everything right. He was orthodox in belief and practice. He certainly didn’t sleep with prostitutes or squander money. But he was so caught up with his own correctness that he didn’t recognise an invasion of grace when it happened in his own household.
Of course we are to be on guard against false teaching and stick to biblical truth. But be prepared to be surprised by revelations of that truth. Don’t be so busy analysing what is right and wrong that we lose sight of the possibilities of what our gracious and untamed God might do in our midst. It is sadly possible to believe in grace and yet forget that it is amazing.