Am I the Older Brother?
He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. Psalm 18:19 NIV
I was a prodigal once. Sure, I have lived in my “Father’s House” and enjoyed His love and protection for many years, but I had to be rescued first.
I made a childhood profession of faith, but when I became a youth pastor, I left my principles and began living wild.
Looking back I can see that I experimented with another life path, thinking maybe I was missing out on something, but that direction led me to a place that was dark, heavy, and suffocating.
Although I closed my ears to friends and family who knew this was bad for me and kept on doing what I wanted, such a soul sickness set in from living a double life.
Finally, I ran back home to God. I heartily bless all those people who prayed for me and sought me out.
I experienced first-hand this beautiful truth about the Heavenly Father: He fervently desires us to be close to Him and he actively brings us into a good place filled with love, safety, belonging, and purpose.
The parable in Luke’s gospel about the lost son includes a vivid picture of how God watches for our return:
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke15:20 NIV)
What about the other brother? He stays at home, close to the father, but his heart isn’t right – it’s cold and self-satisfied and focused on justice.
So beware the Older Brother Syndrome. Once we are back in the fold (or maybe we never left), we can experience a dulled heart, a turning of our backs on the “outside world”.
What a temptation to build walls to keep out the undesirable effects of the darkness. I saw it depicted in the movie World War Z. My heart turned to ice as I watched zombies scale the wall of Jerusalem. Do we view prodigals like that?
God certainly doesn’t!
“I know that God has not forgotten all that’s lost and broken”, sings Will Reagan in his beautiful song, “Take Back”. (Will Reagan and United Pursuit, Endless Years, United Pursuit Records, 2013 CD).
Not forgetting even means going out after those whose lives are stuck in abuse, fear, and alienation, like Jack LaPietra, the pastor of New Life in Christ Church in inner city Denver, Colorado. He writes that this “prodigal son” parable is written also to religious leaders to underscore the tragedy that no one goes.
“The son is left to make his own way back home. Jesus’ implication is obvious: the older brother should have gone to his father and said, ‘My younger brother’s been a fool, and now his life’s a mess. But I’ll go look for him and bring him home.’” (“The House of Pain in the House of God”, Newsletter, May 2013.)
Pastor Jack’s church is full of “younger brothers” – returned prodigals – who go out to find their brothers.
I love the good place – the spacious place – I live in with God, but it has more than enough room for all. “O Lord, open my arms like yours and make my feet run to meet others who are soul-sick and ready for your love.”