28 But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 31 And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.” Luke 15 28, 31-32
A pastor friend tells the story of something that happened at his first church right out of seminary. He would go into the community and witness to people every week while inviting them to come to church on Sunday. After a short while new folks started coming to visit the church on a regular basis.
Then one Sunday the deacons pulled him aside after services and told him he needed to stop inviting certain people to the church. It seems there was an element in town that was not welcome at the church. As you can probably guess my friend did not stay long after that.
Jesus tells the the story of the prodigal son as an example of how God will welcome back repentant sinners. There are several other lessons contained in this parable including one about the older brother.
When the prodigal demanded his inheritance and left, the older son stayed home and stood by his family. While the prodigal enjoyed his life with riotous living, the older son worked hard for his father. When the younger son saw the error of his ways, repented, and returned home, the older son became angry when the father welcomed him back.
If we are not careful, we can let our prejudices and feelings influence who we wish to be saved. We may find ourselves looking down on certain people and refusing to even share the gospel with them. We may also find ourselves looking askance at certain people who come into our church and find ourselves thinking “they don’t belong here.”
If we serve God all our lives, we should be happy for those who choose to serve him, even after riotous living. The older brother sinned by preferring his brother be cast out rather than redeemed. Are there those about whom you feel the same?