February 28, 2011

Where are You at When the Party Begins?

“But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’” Matthew 15:18 (NIV)

Last week, we answered the question, rightfully I hope, where do we go when the party is over? Now let’s look at where we are when the party begins.

In reviewing Luke 15 and the parable of the Prodigal Son, we’ve already seen that the younger son, filled with pride and lust, set out to live it up with all his premature inheritance. He squandered it and wasn’t happy when consequences caught up with him. Fortunately, he came to his senses, returned home and received forgiveness from the hand of his father.

When the party of self-indulgence and plain stupidity was over, he came home to find grace and mercy in abundance and a new party began. This party was one of rejoicing over a lost soul who had found his way back home! And it wasn’t just a small gathering with hot dogs and chips! It was a full blown, rock and rolling, open the barn door and invite the neighbors for a BBQ shindig, complete with loud music and dancing!

I love those kinds of parties, don’t you?

However, as we read about the older son, we discover one minor, teeny-tiny detail. Big brother wasn’t in a partying mood. In fact, he was appalled at the merriment. He was furious over the favor and his blood boiled! Now the obvious question is why?

I have a younger brother and our visits are far and few as he lives in Texas. He also has a heart to match the size of the state he lives in and during the times when I do see him, my heart has a party! Now I can honestly say if his heart wasn’t right causing him to stay away, when he did come home, the party in our lives would be even bigger. Why? Naturally, I’d not only be thrilled, but relieved at his return as well. Not so with our prodigal big bro.

What was his problem? I mean wasn’t he the good kid? Didn’t he do all the right things? Didn’t he care? Obviously not. In fact, while his little brother was the openly rebellious child, big brother was the silent-sinner type.

I heard a story once about a little girl who wouldn’t sit down when asked by her parents. They repeatedly insisted she sit down, finally after a few parental threats the little girl complied but not before announcing with arms folded across her chest, “I may be sitting down on the outside, but I am standing up on the inside!”

That was the older brother. Sitting down, working hard, appearing compliant on the outside, but all the while, standing up on the inside. There was no way he’d set one foot toward those festivities. He was mule-headed and indignant. Why should his little twerp of a runaway brother get all the honors and him, the good kid, get nothing? Well, it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

And the break was great. When the father came to plead for his presence at the party, he snapped. All the animosity he harbored inside spewed forth like lava from a volcano. He erupted all over daddy and refused to budge. With a stomp of his foot, his true heart was revealed for all to see. Bubba had a serious heart problem and he couldn’t hide it any longer.

So how’s your heart doing today?

Are we bitter over a brother who catches a break, when we’ve worked our fingers to the bone without so much as an “Atta-boy” pat on the back? When someone throws a less-than-deserving friend a party, do we climb up on our “full of self-righteousness” high horse and refuse to participate? Why? What kind of statement does that really make?

In fact, it just occurred to me that while the older brother refused to take part in the party for his younger sibling, not too many people noticed. In fact, did anyone truly notice his absence? Who was really hurt by his no-show? The answer is sobering. Just one. Only the Father.

I think I’ll stop there and let the Holy Spirit take over, starting with my heart first!

Ready to party when you are!
Barbara

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