25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’ ”
There is no picture clearer of our current church than the story of the prodigal son. The story of the prodigal son comes in succession to several stories on God’s passion for the lost. It is a story of a fathers love for a son who runs away, spends his inheritance and lives in a pig sty. This story doesn’t end in heartfelt conclusion where the dad runs to the son, nor with the son begging for the father’s forgiveness. The story ends in bitterness. It ends with the older son, the “righteous” son standing in a field steaming over the bitterness in his heart.
If we took a survey today of people who regularly attend church and ask them the simple question- “should we seek and save the lost?” I think the answer would be unanimous… Of course. Saving the lost is what being a Christian is all about. But here is what I’m thinking… what happens when the lost we are trying to save begin to share in the benefits of our churches. What happens when the lost we are trying to save come as they are… as sinners. Rick Warren once said that when you go fishing, you catch fish, and fish stink. I personally believe that our pews are filled with the older brothers, who on the surface want their lost brothers to come home, but deep down store bitterness away because reaching the lost would mean surrendering what is due to us.
Yesterday I sat around a table with several godly ministers as we discussed some of the struggles that each of us were having in ministry. One by one we realized that we shared the same problem. Each one of our churches was held captive by a group of people who chose the comfort of what church should feel like over seeking the lost. I don’t think church members are intentionally hard hearted toward the lost, they just want all things to be done within in a cultural context that leaves them comfortable.
As the older brother sat and stewed in anger over the sacrifice he would have to make because his little brother, the sinner, came home. So we often become bitter, angry and upset when we have to relinquish our rights in order to win the lost of this world. The question we must ask is what is greater, the temporary comfort and ease of a church without the lost, or the true greatness of seeing a lost soul come to the Lord. If God himself surrendered every right that was due him, humiliated himself by wearing our flesh, and dying on the cross, what could we humbly and willingly suffer to win those we truly love to the Lord?