There were once two friends who grew up together. The first friend tried their best to live the “Christian” life. They went to church, followed the “rules” and when it came to sexual purity they kept it, not having sex with anyone. The second friend started out that way but sometime in high school they changed. They decided they didn’t like the rules as much as they liked sex. They didn’t keep their purity at all and in fact did crazy things. They then pretty much left church and frankly God as well.
Then one day the second friend realized that this was not working. Some other friends introduced them to Jesus in a real way and they began to follow Him. Eventually this friend quit having sex with people (this was not easy and cost them a relationship or two) and they committed their sex life to God and waited until marriage. Then they met someone and fell in love. The Lord was in it and they got married.
This friend called the other and asked them to be in the wedding. This first friend still had not had sex with anyone and still wasn’t married. They did what was right and yet, God had not brought them a spouse. The first friend of course went to the wedding and “celebrated” but they were conflicted. “Why does this other person who went out and squandered the gift of sex get someone to love and to hold?” “What about me?” they asked. “How come I have been fighting to be pure and do what is right and yet you (God) have not rewarded me with a spouse – which is something I’ve always wanted?” They love their friend but they didn’t really enjoy the wedding – or their friend.
The story of the “prodigal son” is one of the most used (often misused) stories in the Bible. It is a truly great parable. I’ve heard it used over and over, mainly as a call to repentance to stop wandering and come home to Jesus. The truth of the matter (as everyone from Keller to Bell) has pointed out lately, is that this story is not so much about the prodigal son as it is about God (all parables are about God first – that’s for free) and about the older son.
Jesus is not directing this story at the lost. He is directing it at the Pharisees and teachers of the law. The whole point of the story, in it’s context, wasn’t to call home the lost but instead to let the Pharisees know that they were missing it. They were standing outside the party. They were unable to celebrate the lost coming home because of their own self righteousness.
As single Christians this is a trap we have to watch out for. The trap of resentment and bitterness. This can happen when someone who has lived the crazy life seems to somehow be rewarded with a spouse quickly while we who are “morally good” don’t have that gift. It can happen when we are in our 30s and single and we see people way younger than us get married while we are still waiting.
It’s usually almost subconscious but it can sneak it’s way in. We might end up judging them, “they don’t deserve it” or “I hope it works out but I don’t know. . .” etc. We end up feeling sorry for ourselves, “but I’ve done everything right“, or “I guess I’m just not going to get to be happy. . ” etc. Mostly we end up indignant with God as if He owes us a spouse or somehow is holding out on us.
Obviously this keeps us outside the party – which is not where we want to be. It can keep us from enjoying our friend, their day and what God is doing in their life. And if we let it go unchecked it can create bitterness and cynicism that stays with us in this area of our life – and that can lead to either giving up on sexual purity, or maybe worse, more self righteousness.
We have to fight to follow Jesus into the party and celebrate what He is doing there. It’s worth it to be there and it’s not about us.