By Erin Bird

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a story about a family.  It’s about a dad and his two boys.  It’s possible you’ve heard the story.  Most people call it “The Parable of the Prodigal Son.”  If you aren’t familiar with it, take 3 minutes to read it now.

For years, I mostly saw the story being about the younger son and his dad.  The younger son was clearly disconnected from his dad – wanting his dad dead so he could get his portion of the inheritance to squander on parties and wild living.  Jesus’ audience would have marveled at the unconditional love of the father, welcoming this errant son back with open arms and open heart.

But when I saw Modern Parables’ 25-minute short film on the Prodigal SonI saw the story differently.  Yes, you could still see the selfishness of the younger son.  You also saw the extravagant love of the father.  But because the director shot the story from the point of view of the older son, you were able to see that the older son was JUST as disconnected from the father as the younger son.  He mistakenly thought that his good works connected him to his father, but he completely missed the heart of his dad.

I dream Riverwood will be a bridge that God uses to bring “younger sons” back to Him, their Heavenly Father. We want to see God welcome them back through Christ with open arms and open heart.

But I also dream that Riverwood will help “older sons” – people who think they are connected to God through their good works and “Iowa-nice” personalities.  But like the “younger sons”, these Big Brothers are also spiritually disconnected from the Father – they don’t know their Father’s heart.  They might be great people, even religious people, but they have no personal relationship with the Father because they don’t know Jesus.

So let me ask you: which “son” are you more like?

  • Are you a younger son who’s lived life for yourself, apart from God?  Then I have great news for you!  God welcomes you with open arms and open heart.  Your past and your sins are forgiven through Jesus!
  • Are you more like the older son, who thinks his “goodness” connects him to God?  Then I have good news and bad news for you.  The bad news is that it’s impossible to impress God through your good deeds or earn his favor through your good efforts.  But that leads to the good news!  You already have God’s favor through Jesus’ death and resurrection.  He already loves you fully; you are His child!  You don’t have to do anything to prove you are good enough for His love.

For me – I relate too much with the older brother.  I can begin to think God is quite impressed with my goodness and faithfulness, and that I deserve my own goat (you really need to read the story!).  But while I am working hard FOR God, I can sometimes get bitter, forgetting to spend time WITH Him.  That’s my honest answer to the question.  What’s yours?

Regardless of which son you are more like – you belong at Riverwood.  We are all imperfect.  (Guess that means Riverwood is the perfect place for imperfect people!)  But when we come to the Father through Jesus, He connects with us, giving us life and restoring the perfect image of Jesus within us – regardless if you are a selfish younger son or a snobby older son.