For as long as I can remember, I’ve read the story of the prodigal son and related most to the other brother. You know, the good one who stayed at home and worked for his father. The one that was upset and jealous when his prodigal brother returns home and his father rejoices and kills the fatted calf.
I know a lot of people that were raised in the world, but I was raised in the church. I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t know Christ as my Savior. I always went to church, and I was a good kid. I never got trouble in school. As a teenager, I never once broke curfew (I didn’t even have one…my parents always knew where I was). I didn’t experiment with drugs and alcohol. I didn’t have sex until I got married. I tried to live life as Christ wanted me to live.
Yet, somewhere along the way I missed out on the whole essence of who Christ was. Somewhere along the way, I missed out on the love.
It’s easy to see how it happened. In general, churches today are so void of Christ’s love. I was one of the many masses in them going about with a critical eye. I had secret sins of my own, but I did my best to appear exactly as a Christian was “supposed” to. I judged others for their sins because, in my heart of hearts, judging them made me feel good and clean and right.
Paul says that “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angles, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging symbol. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2, emphasis added)
I was so lacking in love. I did what was “right”, but my days revolved around me. My eyes were blind to the suffering, the hurt, and the needs of those I daily came in contact with. I tithed and gave money to those less fortunate, while in actuality keeping my hands clean from the real work.
And I have been the other brother in much harder ways. I’ve watched those closest to me, those I love, turn away from Christ and from me. I was angry with them, condemned them, and turned my back on them. I withheld my love, thinking that somehow that would save them…somehow that would make them see the foolishness of their choices and turn back. I prayed that they would come back to Jesus, while I so poorly portrayed Him myself.
Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
I was so unlike my Jesus. He showed me love and mercy, and all I showed was judgment and downcast eyes. I thought that, in doing so, I was walking in His path. How wrong I was! How many opportunities I have missed! The very thought sickens me.
He has been speaking to my heart so clearly. He has been showing me how far astray the church, especially in America, has gone. He has been revealing to me how far from his path I’ve gone. He has been bringing me back.
Christlikeness is not about being perfect, or even appearing so on the outside. Far be it from me that I ever become such a white washed tomb again! Christlikeness is about becoming like Him: good and right and truthful, but ever overflowing with love and mercy and grace.
Lord, transform me from the inside out. May Your love overflow out of me. May my life be not my own because it contains so little of selfish me…and is instead so full of You.
Judgement and condemnation profit nothing. They change no one. But love…love can change the world.