Misunderstanding Home (Luke 15:25-32)
This is the story of two sons, both of them away from their father. One son runs away from the father to a far country. The other son stays home, but is still away from the father. We can be "in the church" but away from the Father. How do you know if you are in the church but away from the Father? What is your attitude toward the Father's feast? When someone comes back to the Father's house, He wants to celebrate. The Heavenly Father's heart longs to celebrate over finding what was lost. (vv. 7, 10, 32). The Father wants his family to be at a place of continuous celebration over finding what is lost.
When we feel superior to those who are lost we reveal our misunderstanding of God and His church. Spiritual superiority may not be as heinous a sin as gross sensuality, but it is more perilous. The grossly carnal know they are away from the Father. The spiritually self-righteous may be further away and not even know it. You understand spiritual home when your heart celebrates with the Father over finding the lost.
Coming Home Calls for Celebration
Says the father, "But we had to celebrate and be glad . . . " (v. 32). This story is about the necessity of celebration when someone apart from the Father comes back home. Jesus wants every Pharisee of each age to know that the Father must celebrate. It is a sacred necessity and a binding duty. You do not understand the Father if you do not feel the desire to celebrate when the lost is found. This story tells of a lavish reaction of celebration. The father hired a symphony and choreographed dancing for a once-in-a-lifetime event. Our Heavenly Father does the equivalent spiritually when we come home.
You misunderstand home when there is a reaction of rejection to the father's celebration. A dark cloud hovers over the story. Why is the son in the field? Why was he not informed his brother had come home? Did not the servants sense that he was also alienated from the father? The first words out of his mouth are contemptuous toward his father: "What's going on here?" (v. 27, author) If he had been right with his father, he should have instinctively felt that his father was right.
Even if we are at home in the church, we are apart from the Father when we do not share His celebration over those who come back to Him.
Misunderstanding Home Reveals Alienation
The elder brother is always an "inside outsider." He is close to his father, at home, but at the same time reveals that he is as far from his father as the prodigal.
Anger and alienation reveal apartness from the Father. The elder brother's spirit falls into a rage and becomes furious when it sees how good the father really is. It expresses itself in language of alienation. The elder brother never one time uses the word "father" or "brother" when describing his family. Even though he is formally at home, he feels no real kinship with those in the family.
Slavishness and superiority reveal alienation from the Father. "All these years I've been slaving for you. . . . " He has no joy in the service of his father. It is bondage, servitude. Home is a sweatshop, not a family. When that is our attitude about the church we reveal ourselves. Superiority expresses itself, "I have never disobeyed your orders." (v. 28). Other than the fact that this is not the truth, it shows the superiority complex that misses the Father altogether.
Ingratitude and isolation reveal alienation from the Father. He accuses his father of never giving him the minimum, when in fact his father had given him everything. He reveals the distance of his heart from the father in the isolating statement that he wants to celebrate with his friends rather than the father. He was just as far apart from his father at home as the prodigal was in the distant country.
Contempt and comparison show distance from the Father. "This son of yours" (v. 30) is a word of withering contempt. He compares his own self-conscious goodness with the whoremongering of his brother.
These attitudes are diagnostic of distance from the divine. If they are present in our lives, we should ask the Father to truly let us come home.
Understanding Home Invites Restoration
Everyone can be happy in the Father's home. The Father desires it to be that way.
The Father's persistence calls us to restoration. Just as the father went out to meet the prodigal, he also went out to meet the elder brother. His attitude toward both sons is one of initiative. God goes out after the carnal sinner and the self-righteous Pharisee.
The Father's presence calls us to restoration. "You are always with me." He reminds those who did not wander away morally that He has always been near. There is never a moment when we cannot immediately come into the feast and celebrate with Him.
The Father's provision calls us to restoration. "Everything I have is yours" (v. 31). There is nothing about life in the Father's house that He does not desire to share with us. Salvation, peace, the Spirit, the family of His church, and life that lasts forever He constantly hands to us. We should never be inside outsiders in the Father's house.
All of us need to come back to the Father. Those who left home and those who never seemed to leave home all need to be pursued, loved, and brought home. Which kind of prodigal are you?