In past several posts I’ve been comparing and contrasting today’s attitudes and philosophies of tolerance and intolerance. Today I want to finish this topic by connecting it to an important Biblical story.
The Parable of the Two Sons (Luke 15)
One of the most well-known parables of Jesus is the story of the prodigal son. Only the story is not primarily about the prodigal. It’s about the Father’s heart for both of His sons and how both sons had attitudes and approaches to life that kept them from experiencing the extravagant love and grace of their Father.
The two sons reflect the two issues we’ve been comparing: tolerance and intolerance. Moreover, the two sons reflect the two main ways that humans have approached life throughout history.
The moral of the story is that both sons – the left-leaning and the right-leaning, the liberal and the conservative, the irreligious and the religious, the libertine and the legalist – were living their lives without really knowing the Father. At the end of the story the younger son had returned and had gained a revelation of the Father’s heart and the Father was still pleading with the older son to do the same.
The younger son originally believed that his happiness would be found independent of the Father. Specifically, he felt he was missing out on real living because he was expected to deny himself the pleasures of excessive drinking and fornication. He didn’t love or want the Father or the Father’s old-fashioned morality. He wanted to get away from the Father’s rules and maximize his personal pleasure immediately.
The older son believed that his happiness could be found in denying himself certain pleasures and desires presently, so as to obligate the Father to give him the more “legitimate” things he desired in the future. He didn’t love or want the Father. Rather, he wanted what he could get from the Father after the Father was gone. He was willing to outwardly conform to rules in the near term, so as to maximize his wealth and power later.
Both sons were pursuing life and meaning outside of a deep relationship with the Father. They both believed certain things about the Father that were not true. Consequently, they felt that their ultimate satisfaction could only be found if the Father was out-of-the-way. Neither of the sons carried or demonstrated the Father’s heart. This is where Jesus enters the real story. He’s the Son who truly knows the Father’s heart and cooperates with the Father’s purposes.
Jesus’ mission was to bring people back to the Father – deceived people on both the left and the right. Christ’s goal was not to remove old-fashioned morality or to promote it. Rather, His goal was to get people back to the Father’s heart. And when you encounter God as the glorious Father that He is, you will be changed.
So here’s the diagnostic for each of us. Whether you feel culturally and socially more aligned with the left or the right is not what is most important. That you return to the Father and allow Him to transform your life is what matters.
If this transformation is happening in your life, like Jesus you will not be hard on sinners. Rather, you will be kind and merciful even to the people who do not share your values or behave the way you want them to. You will reflect the Father’s heart of mercy to them.
At the same time, if this transformation is happening in your life, like Jesus you will not be soft on sin. Rather, you will reflect the Father’s holiness and purity and will speak and represent the truth in love.