Yesterday I mentioned that I was going to start every post with a prayer, but today that comes with a twist. Today I ask you, at least one of you who may end up reading this, to pray with me and for me for who I am and what I let consume me in life…namely pride. Jesus I come before you as your humble servant, and I apologize for the actions of my heart today. I am confess that I let pride rule my emotions and anger control my heart. I am grateful for the grace you have given me, even when I am foolishly focusing on everything but you.
I wanted to write about one of my favorite stories in the Bible tonight, in fact lately I have referred to it as THE story about Jesus and redemption. I have heard that story ever since I was too small to even say the word Prodigal let alone understand the full depth of the truth this story holds. Just like I wrote yesterday, so much is written “between the lines” than I ever paid attention to before. I read it again recently as part of a devotional, and this time I decided to read some commentaries on it. I found one that was very good, and got me thinking a lot about this story. In fact do yourself a favor and read all of Luke 15, there are three great stories there that truly define how much God loves you. After reading this commentary I went over all three stories again, leading up to the final one of the lost or Prodigal Son. For a Middle Eastern father back then, it would be very odd to see a man so “filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”
“In the first century, however, a Middle Eastern man never — never — ran. If he were to run, he would have to hitch up his tunic so he would not trip. If he did this, it would show his bare legs. In that culture, it was humiliating and shameful for a man to show his bare legs. So, here’s the question: If it was shameful for a man to run in that culture, why did the father run when his son returned to him? What motivated him to shame himself?” – The Prodigal Son’s Father Shouldn’t Have Run! Putting Luke 15:11-32 in context (see link at the end)
The funny part about this story is I always considered the Prodigal son to be one who was deeply loved, simply by the story itself. However I never looked up what that word actually meant. So tonight I was going to call my post “The Degenerate Son” and take a look at the first part of the story where the son took all he could from his father and then walked away to squander all of it on “wild living”. I was a little surprised (even though it makes perfect sense) that one definition for Prodigal means “wastefully or recklessly extravagant”. WOW! That one sat with me for a moment, I wanted to use this story to talk about my pride and the anger that stemmed from it and I read that definition. Once again God always does it better than I do, I took the grace Jesus offered me on the cross and wastefully and recklessly abandoned it all because my feelings were hurt. It’s not easy for me to admit when I am wrong, and for some reason it’s even harder to admit it to God. I have been dealing with some issues here locally that have upset me and have hurt me and my wife both, but honestly what does it really matter. Jesus made it quite clear that people would do this very thing. In fact He said “If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.” I have to believe that this would also extend to someone who slapped me with pride, instead of fighting back I should humble myself, in love, and offer him my pride as well. After all that’s what humility is right, giving up your pride? But that’s not what I did, I let the actions of another start to darken my day, and turn what had been a beautiful day filled with many blessings into an ugly mess of hostility and anger. I lashed out, I swore, I wanted to strike back, and I did. And as my anger grew I heard a familiar voice tell me “try again” (He’s been doing that a lot lately FYI). My pride and anger had not only affected me, it affected my wife as well. She was right there with me ready to support my fight. The issue that this is regarding isn’t important for this post, but it’s been going on for a while. In fact it started near the beginning of my recent fast. And I heard God speak to me quite clearly “this is not your fight, trust in me.” I was going to write around that time something relating to “my pain is in my pride” and one day soon I will do that (I think I’m doing that now actually). If you know me, then you will understand that backing down from a fight is very hard for me, especially one I feel I can win. But going back to the words of Jesus and what I felt God was trying to teach me I can clearly see that this is not what I am called to do, not here, not now.
I was listening to the chaplain in a local prison last week give a sermon on John and he went over John 18:36. “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.” I’ve actually been dwelling on this since that night. The chaplain talked about this world, and how fighting and war is not necessary, at least not in the eyes of Jesus. There Jesus goes again, one upping me with truth, He can be sneaky that way. Right there in front of of me He is saying “don’t fight, this is not my Kingdom”. I’ve been carrying that message around for me for a few weeks now and not sure what to do with it, until tonight.
We are going to face a lot of grief and sorrow in this world, Jesus also made that pretty clear. We will be mocked and called fools for following Him, but that’s okay because this is not His Kingdom, which means it’s not mine either! I have been telling some of my friends lately that we need to be able to say “so what” more often. Not to be flippant, but more along the lines of so…what does it matter to God? What does it matter to my salvation? If you can’t answer it, the answer is that it doesn’t. Once I came to this understanding I wrote back to the ones who I was angry with, and I apologized and asked for forgiveness. It wasn’t easy, but it was important. As soon as I let that go, the pain from my pride vanished.
Another definition of Prodigal is “