If you’ve ever spent any time at all in church, then it’s safe to assume that you’ve heard at least one sermon about the parable of The Prodigal Son. I’ve been attending church in some capacity my entire life, and I have heard so many variations of teaching on this parable that I couldn’t possibly remember all of them. It truly is a genius story told by the greatest mind to ever walk this earth… Jesus. Only Jesus could tell a story so deeply layered that, 2,000 years later, we’re still discussing the “meaning” of this particular parable. You have the elder brother who was angry at his younger brother’s actions, and couldn’t face the fact that his father would accept his selfish brother back with open arms. We’re also shown the patient father, who when confronted with the worst of insults, was nothing but overjoyed at the return of his son. Then we have the Prodigal Son himself. He demanded his inheritance early, which effectively said to his father that he wished him dead. Upon receipt of his premature inheritance the son promptly began to squander every last cent (or whatever denomination they used at that given time). We talk about all of these facets, and rightly so, because they each show angles of God’s love, mercy and grace for us. They also show a large spectrum of human relationships, the power of forgiveness, and the unending nature of love. Rather than recount, and retell this story for what I’m sure is the 1,000th time in my life, let’s focus on what could have happened if the son did NOT dishonor his father. What if he’d been patient, and treated his father with honor and respect, the way Jesus treated his father? What might that story look like?
With each new generation that walks this earth there is certain to be more innovation, change, and progress. There is an undeniable generational tension that is created as one generation struggles with letting go of the roles they’ve filled for most of their adult life, while a younger generation struggles with discovering what role they were created to fill. I believe that the human race, at least in America, is in the middle of such a transition. It’s our personal journey to make these transitions, no matter your age or generation label, therefore it’s easy to find ourselves focusing on the internal factors affecting our lives. We’re concerned with our personal journey, and we should be. What if, instead of internalizing our personal progression, we partnered with the generations before and after us? What if we communicated with each other, in real love, about those things that we’re either struggling to let go, or grasp hold of? After all, isn’t that where the Prodigal Son went astray? He aborted his father’s vision, so that he could have life the way he wanted, how he wanted, and when he wanted it.
Personally, I’m part of the Millennial generation, which means that I’m part of the “younger” crowd (though I don’t feel that young anymore) who is fighting for my place in society. My tension has been one of discovery. Allow me to be transparent for a moment. Perhaps this is just me, although I’m presupposing that there are those reading this who share in this struggle, but It’s been my tendency to devalue, even if inadvertently, the milestones of our forefathers. This isn’t done out of spite or malice, but rather out of a desire to move forward. As of late, however, I’ve been in a transition of life which has taught me that just because things are in need of change, doesn’t mean that what was accomplished before was wrong. In fact, it may have been exactly what was necessary for its particular time and season. When I can keep this view, then honoring what’s been accomplished before me becomes a natural thing.
As an aside, politicians tend to be the worst about this, because whenever it benefits them to point out the poor results of their predecessors in office, then they take that opportunity without prejudice. That’s a statement that, in my opinion, addresses a general political attitude that could greatly benefit in shifting from a culture of blame, to a culture of honor. How much more could be accomplished if politicians stood to honor each other whether they agreed or not, rather than point out flaws on a constant basis. What’s even more ironic about these tactics, is that I haven’t talked to a voter yet (Democrat, Republican, Independent, etc..) who actually respects this strategy. However, when we choose to honor each other, whether we agree with every decision made or not, then we create a relationship of value which progresses our current situation much more rapidly.
This is precisely why a mutual honor, and love, between all generations is necessary. It breeds strong relationships rather than the weak ones we see in today’s political sphere. Out of these strong relationships flow more wisdom than we could possibly muster on our own. It’s our human tendency to polarize ourselves to whatever people group is easiest to relate to. This usually correlates to me spending time with those closest to me in age, race, religion, economic standing, political beliefs, etc… That’s called culture right? What if, for the sake of argument, it’s the counterintuitive actions in our lives that actually bring forth the best in us? How could your life benefit from allowing someone in a different generation than yours, or walk of life than your own, to have influence in your life?
1 Corinthians 13:9 states, “For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.”
Let’s forget for moment that some of us may still struggle with the idea of prophecy being a relevant gifting today. Those are discussions for different forums. Let’s focus on the fact that we know in part. In other words, our knowledge base is finite, and limited to only what we’ve been able to learn during the course of our lives. If that’s the case, then how much more could we benefit from partnering with a generation who’s lived through many more of life’s seasons that our own? I’ve learned a lot from reading, school, and general discussion, but nothing has taught me as effectively as life itself. Any wisdom that I may have has been obtained through my personal journey and experiences. That’s why Uncommon Legacy as a podcast seemed so beneficial to me personally. How could we not benefit from understanding the personal journeys and paths of growth of others?
As Jesus followers we carry many different titles: the church, the bride of Christ, Christians, the body of Christ, and the list goes on.
1 Corinthians 12:20-21 states, “As it is, there are many parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, I don’t need you! And the head cannot say to the feet, I don’t need you!”
The bottom line is, I need you, and whether you think you need me or not…you do. The extension of that need does not end within our current circle of friends, peers, or acquaintances. It extends far beyond into generations who have left this earth long before we’ve arrived, and reaches into the future to affect unborn generations. We’re constantly told, especially in the church, that what we do today matters for future generations. A wise man builds an inheritance for his children’s children. No longer can we speak declarations of futuristic importance without giving honor, and recognition, to the importance of what was accomplished by those before us. When we work together we can more fully realize the purpose of the Kingdom of God in this earth, which is to reconcile all hearts to the father God through the love he has for us, and to actively live by the love we have one for another.
Concerning those who’ve gone before us: No matter what walk of life you’re in, we should hold them up, not in pride, but in honor. When we value those who’ve come before us, we create a vibrant and sustainable culture for our children to flourish in. Therefore, by partnering with those before us, we can more significantly impact those who will come after.