Having been born and brought up in a Western, pretty traditional church experience in Northern Ireland (the Bible Belt of the UK) I know the extreme importance of being born again. As a kid, going to Christian Summer camps or being part of Christian organizations, hearing messages and going to Church every Sunday, was ultimately geared up to one thing. Continue reading
Yesterday I listened to Rob Bell’s podcast on the Prodigal Son. It’s a story that continues to make sense on so many levels. A story that we spend time trying to figure out whether its true or not that we miss the real truth in it.
That everything I can have from God is already mine is a truth that I will never need to stop hearing. I read and remember. I work, I go to the gym, I eat dinner with my wife, we go for a walk, we talk. I experience it fully, life that is, then I go to sleep.
And in that hazy awakening the next morning, I have all but forgotten. I forgot the gifts that I had bestowed on me and need another reminder to get me through the day.
I don’t need to be told to change. I don’t need to be made to feel guilty about my actions. I know. I know.
But I do need to be reminded of who I am. Loved, accepted, redeemed, chosen. That can not be taken from me. I am the prodigal son returning home knowing I’ll be lucky to even get close to the door. Then I am surprised that the door was already wide open with a banner bestowing my name hung since the day I left.
Later today, I will be the older brother.
Because you see, this story is not about two different brothers. One, a prideful brother who destroys his family out of greed and selfishness only to regret his actions and come back with his tail between his legs. The other, the real villain of the piece. Someone who is quick to judge and can’t forgive.
He stayed after all, he was loyal, so why do we hate him so much?
The truth is much closer than we think.
No, this is not a story about two brothers but a story about one brother. Because let’s face it, who among us has regretted their actions, made amends, seeked reconciliation, received forgiveness and then immediately gone back to repeat the same cycle again and again.
By separating the two brothers into separate identities is to miss an important part of the story. Both brothers lie deep within us.
We often make the older brother out to be the bad guy but the younger brother had exactly the same belief about his father as the older brother. For both, they thought that the harder they worked or the more loyal they were, would decide their sonship. That’s why the younger brother felt so guilty coming home after all; he knew he hadn’t lived up to his side of the bargain.
But both would be shocked. Both would have to think again what it meant to be a son. They were sons because they just were.
Sometimes when I think about what it means to be a Christian I get it completely. I feel at peace and I’m not trying to posture myself to others or God through this blog, through what I say, do or think. My actions don’t come from a feeling of obligation but out of this sense that I am all I am created to be.
There is no greater peace than this.
Other times though, I think I need to believe a certain way or belong to an established church or just lump it and enjoy worship music or not think differently or have a very clear set of disciplines that I never sway from. These are the times when I am most anxious. These are the times when I query whether I am doing enough, loving enough, important enough, doing the “right” things.
My actions are rarely of someone at peace when this happens.
The church has a great reputation for making things black and white. We act sometimes as if we have it all figured out and there are those who are very much wrong and dangerous but if you think the way we do, then you’re ok. Otherwise, best prepare yourself for a hot vacation which never ends.
But this is the older brother part of us vying for attention. He thought he knew how his Father operated until something happened which shocked him to his core and challenged every belief about himself he had ever held.
We do the same. We think we know how God works, what kinds of people God wants us to be, what kinds of people we are supposed to associate with, what kind of movies or music we should engage with. We don’t want to challenge the status quo because we think God is the status quo.
But God is anything but. God doesn’t adhere to our beliefs about Him. We should shape our beliefs to who He is. (Share This)
The calling we have is to find a sense of peace in the Love that is ours simply because God loves us. Then out of this we are more capable to invite people into that life, that justice, that peace, that truly being alive feeling when we stop trying to fight for our faith.
And that’s when we begin to take our first steps home.
There is an idea among many Christians that once we die we will grow some wings, this old sinful broken world will be destroyed in a massive fire and we will all float up to the gates of Heaven, give St. Peter a high five and pick up the keys to our swanky new mansion. This is a nice idea except for the fact for the first Christians that it’s not the way they thought about the afterlife. It’s not how they talked about Heaven.
Actually what’s more likely is that this world, the one we are on now will be joined with Heaven and restored in a new and incredible way.
So if we think of the future in this way, what does this mean for the present? Continue reading