Different Points of View
“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 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. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’" — Luke 15:28-30
We're in the midst of a series on the Prodigal Son. Often, when we look at this story we focus on the Prodigal Son. That's natural. There is plenty to learn from his actions, arc and story. And there's a rich narrative on God's forgiveness to be considered with the story.
But what about the other characters? One of the most compelling, and probably most apt for us, is the older brother. We might not all fave a story like the Prodigal, but we can all identify with the older brother more than we'd care to admit.
The beauty of grace is that it's a free gift that none deserve, yet which God bestows on all who turn to Him and seek it. But in this era where we like to compare ourselves to each other — rather than the only apt comparison, which is against Jesus Himself, we see others turn to God and, in some way, can begrudge them a spot in the Kingdom. It's not unlike the older brother, who remained faithful to the father and became angry to see his brother celebrated upon his return. It can be hard for us, comparing ourselves to others, to see them celebrated and enter the Kingdom of God.
The other night I was flipping through channels and found a news feature on the Manson Family. Listening to the descriptions of the brutal killings was a lot to take in. One of those most responsible was Charles "Tex" Watson. Listening to those close to the victims, it was clear the anger and sorrow still exists. Often, in the wake of crimes, it's hard for the victims' families to feel anything but rage against the perpetrators. And there is no amount of jail time that can make up for the crimes.
But God's grace covers everything. Today, Charles Watson is a different man. He's a Christian and the founder of Abounding Love Ministries, an outreach ministry to prisoners. God wasn't done with Watson. He wasn't too far gone. When he turned to God, his life was renewed. That for some can be hard to reconcile, like the older brother in the parable.
But it reminded me that we can get so focused on the easy example in stories we miss the applicable examples in others. This week the new live-action version of "Beauty & The Beast" opened. In preparation, one of my favorite YouTube groups — Screen Junkies — released an honest trailer for the original animated film from 1991. One of the things it pointed out is that while the Beast was cursed for his behavior his servants were cursed for seemingly no reason.
Perhaps it was that prompting that had me thinking, but it caught my attention when watching the new film. We can learn a lot about love and respect from considering the arc of the beast, but he's hardly the only character to learn from. I was fascinated at one point when Belle asks the servants why they, too, were cursed since they had done nothing to earn it. Mrs. Potts quickly replies, "That's right, we did nothing." But she doesn't mean it the same way. She shares that the servants who knew and loved the beast when he was a boy sat by and did nothing as the boy's father turned him into a cold, uncaring man. Her implication was they shared blame for what he'd become because they did nothing.
At a Men's Breakfast on Saturday our speaker, Dan Jessup, noted that faith grows when you exercise it. Meaning we have to put our faith into practice to build it up. The older brother was angry that they younger son was celebrated upon his return, but did he try to convince his brother not to go in the first place? Or did he sit back and watch it happen, even knowing the toll it took on his father?
We can be angered when we see men and women who've done evil acts forgiven by God's grace, but how often do we sit by and do nothing as people are swayed to actions and lifestyles that pull them away from God in the first place.
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Mrs. Potts and the rest accepted their part in the curse because they didn't help prevent it. But they did play a big part in helping an outsider see their beloved prince with different eyes — the eyes they first saw him with.
Faith grows when you exercise it. How are we putting our faith into practice? How are we making a difference?