I’m pretty good.
I don’t say that as a brag. In a weird way, I mean that to point out something I lack: true gratitude for the grace and forgiveness I’ve received through Christ. I’d bet your experience is much like mine. Many of the most passionate Christians I know are those who were some of the worst sinners before they knew Jesus. The gratitude they have for the forgiveness they’ve received, and the work that Christ has done to bring them from where they used to be is powerful. I don’t have that.
I mainly obeyed my parents’ rules. Studied hard. Went to college. Avoided drugs and alcohol. Got married. Had kids. I’m a boring, straight arrow kind. I’m a doggone Eagle Scout. It would be easy to be like the prodigal son’s brother.
“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’ “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” Luke 15:25-32 NLT
I don’t want to be like that. And I do celebrate when the lost come to know Jesus. But I don’t have the proper appreciation for what I’ve already been given. I haven’t appreciated the blessings I’ve received because I’ve “stayed by” Him and that everything He had for me was mine. Instead, I’m jealous of the passion that some have from having much forgiven. I’d like to be more like the woman in Luke 7 and less like the Pharisee:
One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so Jesus went to his home and sat down to eat. When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume. Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!” Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied. Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?” Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume. “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Luke 7:36-47 NLT
So, yes, I acknowledge that I’m a sinner. I know all sin separates us from God. But I can look around and tell myself that I’ve avoided a lot of sin, even without the grace of God through Jesus Christ. So where can I find that passion? Go back to the prodigal son story and look at what the non-prodigal avoided: hangovers, starvation, humiliation, doubt, shame, and abandonment, just to name a few. So I haven’t been redeemed from drug-addiction, sexual deviancy, drunkenness, atheism, violence, etc…. so what? I’ve also been saved from the life-altering consequences that usually come from such sin.
Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU, that I have not had to suffer the way some have. Thank you that you blessed me with Christian family that brought me to you early. Thank you that you blessed me with great Christian mentors early and often in Sunday School, youth group, Young Life, Campus Crusade for Christ, and Christian Legal Society. Thank you for my wonderful Christian wife. Thank you for our church homes. Thank you that you have kept me with you and that you have blessed me and shared your kingdom and your riches with me. Thank you that I have avoided the hell of addiction, the shame and pain and regret of sexual sin and disease and unplanned pregnancy, the emptiness of not knowing you. Thank you that through all of my life’s relatively small struggles you have yet been with me and I have had the blessed confidence of knowing you were there. Help me remember what I’ve avoided and to BE GRATEFUL.