The gospel in church today was about the prodigal son. For those unfamiliar, I will include the verse below:
Luke 15:11-32 11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.“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.21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘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. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’31 “‘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.’”
As the oldest child in my family, I can empathize with the older brother. Sure, like all children, I had my moments where I was hard to handle and did things that disappointed my parents, but as I became a young adult, I settled myself down. I got a part-time job, I kept my grades up and I stayed active in the church. When I went away to college, I didn’t party. I maintained a 4.0 the entire time I was in school. I wasn’t sexually active. I came home on weekends and spent time with my family. After college, I got a job in my field within 6 months, I continued onto grad school and maintained a 4.0, and I still remained the good girl my parents expected me to be.
My sister, on the other hand, was the opposite of me. She kept good grades for sure and was active in reputable clubs and organizations, but she smoked weed, she partied, and became sexually active in college. She constantly spent her money on unnecessary things and was always asking our parents for more. She got tattoos and piercings despite my parents’ wishes. Despite all of this, my parents adore her. In fact, sometimes she even had more freedoms than I ever imagined having. They forgive her and they love her regardless of her imperfections.
A small part of me can’t help but become frustrated and angry with my parents at times when I feel my sister is given more favorable treatment. Part of me resents that they don’t treat her even a smidgen less than me. Sometimes I feel betrayed – I’m the one that put in the hard work to win their approval, the one who worked hard to bring honor to them, while my sister stained our name with her actions at times. I understand how the older brother in the gospel was feeling when his father threw a party for the brother he felt was undeserving.
I realized that is how we are with God sometimes. Sometimes we think about how we are doing all of the right things, but God still loves “those people”. We measure our transgressions next to those of others and think, “Well at least I’m not as bad as them.” Sometimes we wonder how our God can love the terrorists, the prostitutes, the thieves, the drug addicts, the murderers, the cheating spouses. We get angry to think that God could possibly love, even forgive “those people”.
How egotistical are we to think that it is any of our business who God loves?
God’s love is not like pie. Someone else getting a piece does not make your share any smaller. God’s love is so abundant that He can love every single person in the world and the amount of love He has for you does not grow smaller. And how lucky are we that it doesn’t change, no matter what we do?
As I was thinking about my sister today, I realized something. As I was measuring all of the wrongs she has done, she has never once told my parents that she hated them. I have. In that moment, I realized that she was not the prodigal child when those words escaped my lips. I was. We are so swift to point fingers at the prodigal child, until the prodigal child is us. When we are the ones committing the transgressions, we are so thankful for the forgiveness and love that we receive that we forget about all of the times we stuck up our noses as we saw undeserving people receive forgiveness. We forget that we are also undeserving people. We sin, and we are forgiven. We stray from God, but we are always welcomed back with open arms. We are all the prodigal child at some point in our lives.
What business is it of ours who God loves, when God makes it His business to love us all?
The next time you get it in your head to start questioning why God throws a party for “those people”, just remember, God throws a party for you every time you stray and return. Instead of grumbling about the guest of honor, join the party and rejoice that we have a loving and forgiving Father. Be happy that God loves everyone, and mind your business. Let God do His thing.