The Prodigal Son’s Brother

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Waiting is hard.

We have all experienced waiting at some point in life. Waiting for a spouse. Waiting for a child. Waiting for that promotion at work. And, whenever we are waiting, the process can seem to last forever.

It is not easy to wait, especially when those around us receive the very things for which we long. You’ve been diligently working towards that promotion at work and, instead, it’s given to another colleague. You’ve been praying every day for years for a child but have to watch while yet another friend announces her pregnancy. It’s confusing. It’s disappointing. It’s frustrating.

Singles are no strangers to the waiting game, especially those of us who are well into adulthood. It is a regular occurrence for us to see friend after friend after friend get engaged. Then, after most of our friends are married off, we start seeing those we used to babysit get engaged. (True story.) To say it’s difficult is putting it lightly.

I love marriage. And I want to rejoice when I see two godly people enter into that sacred union. I want to root for them. I want to see their marriage display the gospel. I want to see them work together for the kingdom.

But, it is hard. As much as I want to see their marriage succeed, I also so long to experience it. Every time I see an engagement announcement, it’s just another reminder I am not anywhere near that. It’s another reminder that the thing I so desire has still been left unfulfilled.

How long, oh Lord?

I was recently reading through Luke and came to the passage on the prodigal son- a passage I’ve read and been taught probably 1,000 times over the years. A rebellious son squanders his inheritance, comes back home expecting, and wanting, to at least be treated as a servant, yet finds grace in his father and receives a celebration fit for a king.

We all read this and rejoice over grace that is found in the father. We relate to the prodigal son. No matter how much we’ve sinned, we find a heavenly Father who is waiting with open arms to extend us grace. But, how many times have we stopped here or skimmed over the rest of the story? As I was reading it this time, I came to the end of the story and realized something.

I am the prodigal son’s brother.

Instead of celebrating the fact that his brother has come home, he grows bitter and sulks feeling like he has somehow been gypped of his own fattened calf. “Look at these many years I have served you…yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends (Luke 15:29).”

The similarities in his attitude and mine are astounding. I see one more person get engaged and my reaction is the same. “How many years have I served you, Lord, and longed so much for a husband, and you still won’t provide one? Yet, you gave this person over here a spouse and they definitely haven’t been waiting as long or as hard as I have.” Like the prodigal son’s brother, I am unable to rejoice over something worth celebrating because of my own pride and selfishness.

But, look at the father’s gracious response. “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours (Luke 15:31).” The oldest son needed to be reminded of who he was and what he already had. He was so consumed with bitterness over his brother’s fattened calf, he had completely lost focus on what was already granted to him.

That’s me more than I’d like to admit. I see someone else get engaged and I grow bitter, not only missing out on celebrating with them, but also blinding myself to God’s exuberant blessings in my own life.  I’m too busy thinking I deserve what they have more.

The comparison game is real. And it’s ugly. It’s a tactic straight from Satan to make us lose sight of God and his abundant blessings. We must put that mindset to death.

I am not better than anyone else. I do not deserve anything more than anyone else. The Lord has already blessed me way beyond what I deserve. It’s so ridiculous to allow one thing in life to cloud everything else. This one desire for marriage often blinds me to all of the other amazing ways the Lord has provided for me. And, unfortunately, engagements can easily trigger it. Like the prodigal son’s brother, I feel gypped.

But, in these moments, my Father graciously reminds me of who I am and what he has given me. He encourages me to look beyond my desires and those things I think I deserve to see I have everything I will ever need. Instead of focusing on this one fattened calf, I realize I already have the whole kingdom.

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The SBC, Idols, and Sin

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There has been a lot going on within the life of the SBC in recent weeks and months. Everyday there seem to be more allegations and stories of sexual abuse and cover-up attempts. I have been deeply heartbroken over truth that has been uncovered, yet deeply thankful that it is finally coming to light.

After following these stories and allegations pretty closely, there are a couple of questions that have been on my mind.

1: Have certain religious leaders become idols in our lives?

As soon as allegations against a renowned leader arise, the first instinct is to defend them. This completely makes sense. I understand the inclination to believe the best in those we highly respect. However, there are some who continue to defend leaders even when there is a lot of evidence to show wrongdoing.

I get it. It’s not easy to admit our heroes are flawed. It’s not easy to admit our heroes have made grave mistakes. But, when we continue to ignore the truth about someone, even when it’s staring us right in the face, it most likely means that person has become an idol in our lives.

It’s not wrong to respect or think highly of people. It’s not even wrong to hope for the best in people. However, we must always be careful to not view someone as another savior. There is a real danger of thinking too highly of someone and putting that person on a pedestal of perfection.

No one is safe from sin. No one is safe from making mistakes. When we refuse to believe someone is capable of massive failure, we have placed them into a position they were never meant to be.

The only perfect, blameless Savior we have is Christ. He does not share his position. He cannot share his position.

Which leads to my next question.

2: Do we have a wrong view of sin?

The shock and appall surrounding these stories has also been eye-opening to me. Now, to be sure, disappointment and heartbreak over the sin of others is completely normal. However, our intense shock over someone’s failure may be evidence that we have a wrong view of sin and its seriousness.

The constant reminders in scripture to fight against our flesh are not for kicks and giggles. They are not simply fillers in the many letters Paul wrote. They are there because sin is real. Sin is deceptive. Sin can be very easily fallen into when we are not careful. Satan is crafty. Even the most holy of us are no match for his schemes.

Any one of us can fall into deep sin. Any one of us can make grave mistakes that effect so many others. No one is immune to it.

Not even our most highly respected leaders in the faith.

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Everything that has taken place in recent weeks and months in the SBC has made me come face to face with my own life. Have I idolized anyone in the faith? Have I become too desensitized towards the seriousness of sin?

I can think of several people right now who I have a hard time believing would fall into serious sin. I have had to remind myself that they are human. They are still in the flesh. They haven’t gained some sort of extra protection against sin and corruption.

I pray with ever fiber of my being that the Lord protects them from falling into serious sin. I deeply hope they are seeking to live for Christ and his glory each and every day.

But, I also pray that my hope for them to remain faithful would not blind me to truth. No one is perfect. No one is free from the pull of sin.

Not me. Not you. Not even our heroes.