Forgetting Our Identity: A Tale of Two Sons
I love the story Jesus told (Luke 15) about the man with two sons. I have two boys, so immediately I feel like I can somehow relate. Sure, my boys are young, we live in modern America (not ancient Israel), and I don't have servants, hired workers or a fat calf to slaughter, but just about everything else is the same. Ok, so nothing's really the same, but work with me here.
The oldest son in the story does exactly what he's supposed to do. He dutifully takes care of his chores. We learn early on that the younger brother is selfish and impulsive and disrespects his father by asking for his inheritance. In outward appearance, one son follows his father's will, and one does not. At the end of the story when the younger son repents, we see that the older son's heart isn't right. They both have been sinning. One son's sin is private. The other's is public. How easy it is to focus on the public, big-ticket offenses, but overlook the internal breakdowns of the heart.
The "bad" son came to his senses and confronted his sin. Yet, why was it harder for the "good" son to see his sin? I think it was because throughout his life, he'd been praised as a good boy. When others compared him to his wild younger brother, he came out looking like a fine young man. He was the model, the example. How easy it is to define oneself by other's judgments.
I think the father knew their hearts and grieved for them because both were equally outside his will. He loved them both the same. They both had the same family heritage. Both were identified as sons.
And both forgot who they were.
The younger son felt he'd lost his family name. He believed that his sin had forfeited his right to sonship. However, the older brother who stayed home also forgot who he was. He gradually came to believe that his position in the family was something he had earned because of his hard work and responsible lifestyle. He forgot that his identity was given to him from his father. He became prideful and arrogant. He couldn't rejoice when his younger brother came home. He wouldn't join the party. He thought he deserved to be in his father's good graces. How easy it is to slip into the mindset that our identity is something we must earn and work toward.
The younger brother sought his father's grace and mercy, and he returned home, and his actions and lifestyle followed. In the parable, Jesus doesn't tell us if the older brother ever realized that his identity was a gift that couldn't be earned from hard work. I hope he eventually did.
So many Christians today are like the older brother. I've been like that. Have you?
Visit our Facebook page (http://facebook.com/lifetime.org) and tell us one way that you've lived like the older brother. Then tell us what it took for you to realize that your identity as a son (or daughter) was a gift that you could never earn or work for.
Created about 3 years ago