“Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’” Luke 15:25-32 ESV
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:30-32 ESV
George Bailey was always a good, dutiful man. When he was a boy, his younger brother fell into some icy water and almost drowned, but George jumped in and pulled him out. Because of that, he lost the hearing in one ear, and when he grew up and there was a war he wasn’t allowed to fight because of his bad ear. He had to stay home and watch his brother go to war and become a hero. George’s brother left their small town after the war to follow his dreams, but George stayed home and continued to do what he thought was right, even though he also had dreams of traveling and of becoming an engineer. Those dreams didn’t come true, and later, when George was in trouble, he felt as if his whole life had been pointless. He was ready to jump off a bridge and kill himself, but then an angel came and showed him how much his life had meant to many of the people in town. When George went home, everyone was ready to help him with his problem, and he realized that his life had great value and joy.
This is only a story, but George is a little bit like the older brother in the story Jesus continued to tell. The older brother in the story didn’t take his inheritance from his father and run away. He stayed home and worked with his father and always did what he thought was right. He might have sometimes felt jealous of the fun he thought his younger brother was having, and when his brother came home and his father threw him a party, he was so angry and jealous that he wouldn’t join the celebration. His father came out to talk to him, gently and patiently. The father said that the older son had always been with his father, and that everything his father had was his. He tried to show his son that his life had great value and joy because he had stayed home with him. The father pleaded with him to understand his joy over his younger son, who had caused him so much grief and now come home again. The father wanted the older son to share that joy, just as he shared everything else with him.
We are sometimes like the older brother. We try to live lives faithful to God and his ways, but we don’t always realize what value and joy our lives have because we live our lives with the Lord. We might even feel jealous of people who go their own way and don’t care about God. When one of these people comes to know the love of our Heavenly Father through what Jesus has done for us on the cross, we might even feel jealous. We don’t want to forgive them, because we forget how much love and forgiveness the Lord gives us every day because of Jesus. But our Heavenly Father pleads with us patiently and gently to be ready to love and forgive everyone who comes home to him, the same way that he forgives us. He wants us to share in the joy of his mercy and grace for all people, now and forever.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the life we have with you. Help us to love and welcome everyone that you bring home to your family. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Capra, Frank, dir. It’s a Wonderful Life RKO Radio Pictures, 1946. Film.