By Ps. Mark Banyard\
The parable of the two sons is all about relationship – relationship with the Father in His unconditional love. With the younger son, the father went out to meet him as soon as he repented, but with the older son, the father went out to reinstate him to his rightful place in the family. In Luke 15: 29-30, we see the response of the older son to his father’s plea: ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ You can almost picture the son wagging his finger at his father!
At this point, I want to tell you about my father. I grew up in a great home with a great mom and dad who was my hero. He immigrated to Canada from England after World War Two. He loved the arts, was very well-read and he could do almost anything around the house from the garden to the kitchen. My father was an incredible man. I loved him. He was very demonstrative in showing his love for us all. It was only years later that I realized he did that so that I could learn how to do the same with my own family. There was only problem with my father. He was a workaholic. His sense of identity came out of working all the time. As a young boy, I would go to him wanting to help him with the chores around the house only to be rejected each time because he would be able to finish the work faster without me. He always had this ‘to-do’ list that needed to be completed. I wanted to spend time with my dad because I wanted to be like him. Sadly, in my teen years I grew distant from my father as I developed my own social network. My dad somehow had sensed that all this time I had something in my heart towards him. One day, he finally came to me and suggested that we spend some time together. It was then my turn to reject him. It had been building up in my heart for years.
In our ministry, it is so important that we have the relationship with God to strengthen the call. When you do not feel loved, you will work harder in order to win approval. It is not out of love, but out of a sense of duty and responsibility. When the context is not in relationship, then your work is the only means to find out who you are, not who you know. This older son was doing what he was called to do, just as we, the church are called to serve. We can serve out of a sense of duty, without standing on the foundation of the Father’s unconditional love. If that be the case, over time, we would build up something in our hearts towards the Father. When the trigger comes at the right time, we find that what comes out of us is either anger or exhaustion. You cannot sustain service apart from the reality of God’s unconditional love. The flesh may be able to but the spirit man will die.
After I became a Christian at 23, I realized that I needed to not only forgive my father but also ask for his forgiveness. Over time, we were totally reconciled. I was able to receive my father’s forgiveness and he, mine. It was only then that I came to a place of love and respect for my father. He was not a perfect father and neither am I, but our Father in heaven is. His love is always perfect. If we are constantly thinking about the shortcomings of the people close to us, we will stay bitter and we will always be stuck. However, when we understand and experience the Father’s perfect love, we are set free for perfect love casts out all fear.
Verses 31-32 read, ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ Notice the change in how the father addressed his sons. From calling the older son as ‘my son’ he then went on to refer to the younger son as ‘this brother of yours.’ Now it is about a brother reconciling to a brother, not a son to a father. It is about family. His perfect love enables us to reconcile with one another.
Why did the father go out to plead with the son who refused to come in? He wanted the son to be with him in the same place. It is about us coming into a place of being found in Him, being loved by Him. It is not enough just having a revelation of who He is. It should be followed up by having something changed in our hearts, some level of healing or an increased wholeness within so that we can turn to one another and come to a place of unity that we have yet to experience.
Often what stops us from inheriting God’s promise is the place that we are trying to leave. You have heard it said that you can get a man out of Egypt but it takes a long time to get Egypt out of the man, right? The Lord wants to make Grace Assembly to be a community of real people, living stones, not an organization or a Christian club. I believe that God wants to bring you, the people of God in this place to a level of unity that you have yet to experience. He wants to bring you into something new together, not just as individuals. He wants you to be a people together with one purpose, one destiny, one calling, one Lord and one faith. It is just like the Israelites crossing the sea together as a people and the waters parted miraculously for them. It involves making a decision at some point for God to miraculously take us to a place where we cannot reach without Him. Where is it that He wants to take us? It is to a level of wholeness and freedom in Him, that brings about a unity of spirit, an alignment with the heart and mind of God so we can step into the new thing that He is doing on earth. It is then that the whole earth can be filled with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
I believe that we all have parts of the younger and older son in each of us. But we need to remember that there is a loving Father who meets us regardless of who we are. He invites us to a place of celebration, to drink from His cup and eat the food from His plate. He wants us to know a love which will release our true identity that will bring us into a place of wholeness and freedom. Then He sends us out in mission to fulfill His destiny and purpose for the sake of His Kingdom upon the earth. That is who our God is and His love is perfect!