I had an epiphany the other night. My small group from church was talking about the parable of the prodigal son and how we relate to each of the characters in the story. There’s the prodigal son who took his inheritance early and wasted it all on frivolous things and eventually swallowed his pride and returned home. And of course, there’s the father who welcomed his son home with open arms, celebrating the return of his wayward child. And the final character, the brother, is feeling left out, wondering why he did the right thing as he watched love being lavished upon his no good brother. As I saw myself in each one of these characters, a thought occurred to me. The prodigal son was able to return home because his father’s opinion mattered more to him than his brother’s. It’s a perspective shift that really has me thinking right now. Let me explain…
We have all done things in our life that we are ashamed of. The reason we push away from those that love us, including God, is because shame weighs so heavy on us that we fear rejection and judgment. This is especially true within the church, the one place we expect to be safe. I’ve heard many people over the years say that they don’t have a problem with Jesus, just his fan club. Ouch! I do have a problem with this comment for two reasons, though. First, it bothers me that church people have given church such a bad name because we can’t get over ourselves and our man made rules and religion to accept people for how they are. But I am also just as aggravated that we (I include myself in this) put so much emphasis on what other people think and do that we allow it to forever tarnish the image of God and the Church He chooses to use. This leads me back to the parable. Whose opinion really matters? The father’s (God) or the brother’s (God’s people)? If we honestly want to seek relationship with God, then shouldn’t His opinion be the only one that matters?
I remember one church I visited a few years ago during my divorce. The community group I attended was for singles and I was hoping to connect with other Christ-followers during a very trying time in my life. One Sunday that I happened to be out of town, there was apparently a very judgmental comment made about divorced people by a guy in his late 20’s that had never been married. When I caught wind of this, I was so ticked off I decided I was done with that church. How dare he cast judgment on me! He didn’t know my plight. Now four years later, I realize that my attitude was pretty pitiful as well. I was placing more importance on the opinions of the people in that group than upon God’s. I failed to remember that no church is perfect because people are involved in every single church body.
I’m not saying this is easy. God isn’t walking down the hall saying hi to me in physical form, but other people are. We all want to feel like we belong somewhere. I can say that, from experience however, until we care more about what God thinks than other people, we will never feel like we belong anywhere.
So ask yourself. Whose opinion really matters?