“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “ ‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ ” (Luke 15:25-32 NIV)
Our ministry began to look at why we do what we do. I thought it was our mission statement but as we debated and prayed it became apparent that it is found in Luke 10:27--To Love God and Love People. As I was thinking about our "Why" it became apparent that I didn't always believe all of Luke 10:27. I loved God but I'm not sure how much I truly loved people. In the passage above you will a young man who loved God. But he didn't love people. His father did, but the older brother had God compartmentalized. He was like the Pharisee who asked Jesus what must he do to inherit eternal life? I think the Pharisee and the older brother both loved God but they didn't love people. They probably like a lot of us who had a check list that let them know the score with Jesus.
Before I was called to the ministry I was a High School Football coach. We always told our guys to give 100%. But in our Christian life some of us only give 50%. I dare say most Christians love God, but how many truly love people? We all know the story of the younger brother in the passage before the one above. He blew everything before he realized he had everything at home. He humbly came back to his father. We see that daily in our mission fields. But I dare say there are many Christians who are like the Older Brother. Many of us dealt with Older Brothers/Sisters in our churches. Many people say they love people, but what they really mean is they want the people to become like them.
I'm going to be transparent. I was the older brother. I was blessed to be brought up in a ministry family. My dad's ministry was to Prodigals and just plan pagans. I was spoiled and had 2 parents who loved me and shared Jesus with me at a very young age. I loved God, but I didn't love people. In fact, I didn't like the people my dad was ministering to. I thought I was better than them. I had my check list that proved how spiritual I was. I read my Bible, check. I prayed, check. I tithed, check, etc.... If I saw someone who sinned, I would point it out. I graded my spiritual life vs others. I was wrong but it was my life. My dad's staff shared with him how I had become a snob and he confronted me. But it took something to really shake up my life.
I had a friend named Jimmy (not his real name). Jimmy and I were best friends in high school. We were both active in our church and were both in a discipleship group together and did everything together. But Jimmy met a young girl name Suzie (not her real name) and they began dating. She was active in her church but began pulling Jimmy away from our church. One day Jimmy confided in me that he was in an intimate relationship with Suzie. I told him that he was wrong, but unlike my judgmental attitude towards others I stayed Jimmy's friends. One day 3 months before graduation, Jimmy pulled into the school parking lot and asked me to get in his car. He told me that he and Suzie were getting married that Saturday and he wanted me to be his best man. He then told me that Suzie was pregnant. You could have hit me in the stomach with a baseball bat. Had it been anyone else I would have poured on the heathen remarks. Had it been anyone else I would have turned my back on Jimmy. But this was my best friend. I was like the Grinch at that moment. My heart changed. I loved Jimmy. I began to see how Christians especially at my church turned on Jimmy and Suzie. Despite my attempts to be their friend, they both dropped out of church and today Jimmy is in jail. I could go into more detail, but needless to say, that was when I realized that people mattered to God.
Up until that point, I looked at people like Jimmy and Suzie as sinners not realizing that I was sinning by my judgmental attitude. I'm not saying that the inner Pharisee doesn't come up in my from time to time but today I get moved by lives that our changed. I believe God has called each of us to not only love Him but to love people. Why? Because people matter to God. In the first part of Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories of how much people matter to Him. A man lost his sheep and went on an all out search for the one sheep. A woman lost an coin and went looking for that coin. Then the prodigal left and God allowed him to leave but always was looking for him. Instead of being like they older brother, God wants us to search for lost people and rejoice when they come to know him. The biggest party we can ever imagine occurs when lost person comes to know Christ. Why? Because people matter to God. So instead of being partial Christians I want to challenge each of us to Love God & Love People.