Monday, January 30, 2012

This Son of Yours

'angry face' photo (c) 2008, Graeme Maclean - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
I've written about the older brother in the story of the prodigal son before. Because I've been a Christian my whole life, I've always identified with him more than with the son who ran away.

Yesterday our pastor Bill spoke about the older brother. During his reading of the passage in Luke, one phrase jumped out at me that I hadn't ever noticed before. I've resonated with the older son's attitude, but hadn't paid attention to the words a whole lot.

The older brother is feeling slighted. He has been working in the fields and he comes home to find that there is a party going on. A party for the son who ran away. A party for the son who dishonored his family name.

And in the midst of his tirade to his father about the injustice of this situation, he says the following phrase:

"This son of yours."

How have I missed that?

The older brother acknowledges that they are in the same family, but he completely separates himself from his brother.

He could have said, "this brother of mine" but that would indicate a level of closeness. There might have been some temptation to bind the two of them together. Instead, he cuts himself off from the relationship by ignoring their kinship.

I do this all the time. Every time that I talk about how "that person doesn't really represent Christianity," I'm saying, "this son of yours." Every time I talk about "that pastor" or "that church member" or "that congregation" I'm putting a wall between myself and a brother or sister in Christ. Sure, we might call ourselves Christians, but we're not really in the same family. When I deny the relationship that I have with them, it becomes easier to have an attitude that is self-righteous and judgmental.

It's okay to disagree, even to disagree strongly. But before I do that, I need to make sure that I'm approaching them not just as the Father's child, but also as my brother or sister.

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Do you ever slip into the "older brother" syndrome of separating yourself from other people of faith? What is the best way you can combat that attitude?

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