It’s important to find your place in the story
We all tell stories. And we also “make stories” to make meaning of what we see and experience around us.
One story that is told about Christians is that they are judgmental. In fact, 87 percent of the unchurched view Christians as judgmental.
One study revealed that many Christians are more concerned with pointing out unrighteous behavior — pointing fingers at immorality in the culture, especially — than they are with self-righteousness and confronting Christians who exhibit this trait.
We can easily make up stories about others while letting ourselves off the hook. But, in doing so we give those who do not know Jesus an opportunity to create a story about us. The problem with that is: often, the story created about us becomes the same story for God — “He is judgmental. He is pointing fingers at us when we do wrong.”
Sometimes we need a new story.
Fortunately, Jesus gave us many stories that give us an accurate view of God. If you were to choose just one of Jesus’ stories to know and tell, you’d want to choose the story we will look at today. Charles Dickens called it the greatest short story ever told. You might know it as the Prodigal Son.
A younger son takes off with his inheritance and squanders it on loose living. He winds up finding work feeding pigs — not the place a young Jewish man wants to be — and decides to head home and see if his dad will let him work as a servant.
Before he gets close to his home, however, his father runs out to greet him. He covers him with a robe and puts a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. All of this is a sign he is accepting his son back. Then the father throws a party for his prodigal son.
The older brother doesn’t like any of this. He’s upset he didn’t get a party. He’s self-righteous and the story ends with us wondering if he will join the party or not.
That’s a great story. When we listen to stories, we find ourselves in the characters. You could see yourself in the younger son.
Shame hits us hard and tells us we are not enough: not good enough, smart enough, good-looking enough, rich enough. Shame is hard to defeat.
Maybe you’ve done some things in your life that you are ashamed of. Maybe it was in your teenage years. Or into your twenties. Or just this week. And now you wonder what God would think. You have felt the judgement of his people over the years and now you have begun to wonder if he looks at you the same way they have.
If you see yourself as the younger son, then you need to see the Father. I don’t know what the younger son expected. I don’t know what you expect from him either. But I do know what the son and you or I get. We get a father we most likely did not expect.
After the father embraced his son and kissed him, he had a servant bring a robe, a ring and sandals. These were items that restored him to his sonship in the family. But the robe especially did something. It covered his shame. The father covered him so that when he did get to the house, no one would have to know where he had been or what he had done. All that mattered was that he was home.
If you see yourself in the younger son, you need to see this part of the story. Let it sink in. feel the Father’s embrace. Talk to him. And let him restore you.
And learn from the Father. We have a world that needs us to be more like him, especially when we fall.
Instead of being concerned about pointing out other people’s unrighteousness, maybe we should be more concerned about self-righteous attitudes. The Father was.
The other character in the story is the older son. You don’t want to be him. The only people Jesus gets upset with in the gospels are the self-righteous. They are quick to point out the faults of others without taking into account their own. And because of that, they have no room for the one who has made some mistakes in life.
The Father is preparing a great feast and he wants you to be at his table. But you can’t come alone. There will be tax collectors and sinners, some recovering Pharisees and scribes. All in need of a savior. You’ll see Jesus’ seat at the banquet. But don’t be surprised if it’s empty. He’ll probably be out looking for the next person who’s lost their way to the party.