"My son 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 now is found."
Compliant children are easy to raise. They obey the rules, keep the peace, respect authority. They're agreeable, reliable and trustworthy and yet, easily over-looked because they don't demand constant attention.
Strong-willed children are more difficult to raise. They break the rules, argue often, question authority. They're disagreeable, demonstrative and usually nonconformists. They get the attention because their behavior demands it.
As parents, we're left scratching our heads wondering how such opposite children came from the same lot. What discipline works well with one of them certainly does not prove eeffective with the other. In our attempts to be fair in discipline, we are constantly challenged to balance this with love. But, it never fails that one child accuses our attempts as unfair or unloving.
I'm reminded of this in reading the "Parable of the Lost Son" in Luke 15:11-31. Here, we have two sons from the same family. One is compliant; obeys the family rules, works hard on the estate and patiently waits for his financial inheritance. The other is disobedient, impatient and rebellious and demands his inheritance immediately. The father complies to his demands.
The rebellious son travels to a distant country, squanders the money in the worst ways until he is left with nothing. He finds himself so hungry that even pig slop looks appetizing! Coming to his senses he returns home and apologizes to his father, admitting he has not only sinned against his family but also against God.
Like any parent who has "lost" a child, this father is over-joyed that God protected and returned the son he thought he'd lost, so he throws a party in the son's honor. But the obedient so becomes jealous, angry and outraged that his father would "waste" even more on his irresponsible, rebellious brother:
"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 squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for HIM?"
Oh, the wisdom of the father..."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" (vs 31-32).
Like Jesus taught us, it's all about the heart! It's not about obedience for obedience sake. It's about the attitude behind the obedience.
Why do we obey? Because we're supposed to? Because we're afraid of the consequences? Because of the reward? OR, is it from a heart that loves Jesus?
Jesus says in John 14:15, "If you love me you will obey what I command." His words don't mean we obey like good little soldiers but rather we obey because we want to, out of a heart-felt, loving relationship. When we love someone, our hearts yearn to please the one we love and obedience comes naturally, not dutifully. That's a heart change. That's being "found."
Oh Lord. May our hearts not obey you dutifully like a compliant child but may our rebellious hearts long to be like you and from the overflow of our hearts, may our actions speak volumes to those around us.