Scripture of the Month-Deuteronomy 6:4-9: 4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
So, as this is the Year of the Family, I thought it would be fun this morning to start out with a quiz to see how well we all know famous TV families. Consider the first part of this sermon a Game Show this morning. (You’re welcome)
Let’s see how well you know famous TV families:
Please prepare pics of the following famous TV families:
The Adams Family
The Hecks (The Middle)
The Tanners (Full House)
We all have different reasons why we have enjoyed watching these families. Some TV families are so “picture perfect” that we have set our sights on becoming them. They have become the “ideal family.”
“Mom, can we all get matching pajamas? I want to be THAT family. I want to wear matching PJ’s, bake cookies and watch Christmas movies together.” That’s what my 14-year-old niece, Emily, told my sister this year. That was her ideal Christmas family day this year. So, sure enough, they became “that” family, whatever that means, and this was the result on FB:
So, after the Jammie Selfie, on another day they were at Target and Emily saw an 8-person tent on sale. She tried to get my sister to buy it and said she wanted to be “THAT family that goes camping together.” To which my sister replied, “Let me guess, they camp together and wear their matching footie and hooded jammies and eat the cookies they made together while doing it.” “THAT family.”
When you read the Bible, you can’t look at any family story in it and say, “I want to be THAT family” because you can’t find an ideal or perfect family in the Bible.
Look at this video from 5:42-8:37: http://revo.church/th_sermon/becoming-the-family-god-wants-you-to-be/
Sin has attacked what God blessed. The family has struggled ever since sin entered the world. How do we process the reality that for most all of us “family” is complicated at times? Even the most blessed family still has imperfect dynamics and dysfunction to deal with and overcome.
Let’s look at a story from Luke 15 in perhaps a new light today as we talk about family dynamics and imperfect families.
Luke 15:11-3211 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. 13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. 17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. 25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ 28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ 31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'”
Obviously, being called the Parable of the Prodigal Son, this is a salvation parable. It is about the generous love of our Heavenly Father who welcomes us back when we have blown it and spent it and wasted our lives. It is about the celebration that takes place in heaven when sinners repent and come to trust Christ is Savior. However, being set in the context of an earthly family, I think there is more we can glean from this story than merely a heavenly implication. I also see that this is a story about a family that came apart, a family with issues, and the loose ends that remained in them coming together.
You know you can come home, but not come together as a family, right? Just because you are living together under the same roof doesn’t mean you are living as a healthy, loving family unit. The Prodigal Son came home, but the older brother wasn’t happy about it. There was division between the brothers. Maybe that is the reason the younger brother left in the first place. We don’t know for sure. Maybe he was tired of the house rules. Maybe he wanted to sow his wild oats. Maybe it WAS a rivalry between the brothers and the younger brother just had to get away.
There are all kinds of reasons family members make different decisions. The nuances for all of those reasons can’t always be understood, but family division is easy to understand. When it exists, you can feel it. You can feel tension in the air. You know what it is to walk on egg shells. You know what the hot buttons are. You know how to sugar coat things, how to avoid things, and how to put on the happy face. I believe God wants more for our families than just pretending. What can we glean from this story that might help us know where to start?
Dads, Moms, and Grandparents Raising Kids, parenting is not for the faint at heart. As sure as our kids will bless us and put a smile on our faces, they are also capable of breaking our hearts. We read in this story that a man had two sons. One went one direction and the other stayed true to his upbringing. How does that happen? Perhaps you have asked yourself the same question. How can two children growing up in the same home turn out so differently? How can one choose to walk away, to leave the family, and to walk toward a lifestyle that is contrary to your hopes, dreams and best parenting? How do you process it when your kids waste their potential, squander their resources and wind up hitting rock bottom?
Many of you are dealing with prodigals who have disconnected because they have made room for alcohol and drugs in their lives and have become addicts. Many of you are dealing with prodigals who have explored other faiths and ideologies because they just don’t want to accept what has been handed to them by their parents. Some have suffered traumatic life experiences which have caused them to question everything from the meaning of life to the existence of God. Their questions have led them down a Yellow Brick Road in search of happiness and contentment, but have ensnared them into materialism, sexual exploration or the world’s way of thinking.
There is another kind of prodigal, and it is the elder brother. He was the prodigal who stayed. He was the prodigal who just lived self-absorbed and bitter. He was the prodigal who held a grudge. Rather than value family and the reunification of family, he valued himself. He chose to create something out of nothing. His father’s desire to host a party for the son who came home wasn’t a commentary on the elder brother. It had nothing to do with the elder brother, but the older son decided to read into things and twist things and take things personally. I am sure the father was thinking, “Really? I have prayed so long that my estranged son would come home, and now that he has, my son who has been at home has become estranged!”
No doubt the dad in this story dealt with a broken and betrayed heart. In that culture to be asked for your inheritance before your parent was deceased was like making the statement, “I wish you were dead.” How could a father just “get over that,” welcome his son back, and throw a party for him to boot? Parents, we have to remember that our job is to demonstrate the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father to our children. Sometimes it is extremely difficult. Sometimes the best way to love our kids is to tell them, “No.” Sometimes it is to welcome them home after they have betrayed our hearts. The prayer of every Christian parent needs to be, “Lord, help me love my children the way You desire for me to.” Listen, our kids learn about love from our example. What are we showing them?
If our homes are ever going to come together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, love must lead the way.
The second thing I would say about the family dynamic in this story is that the father saw the son coming home and ran to him to welcome him. You know what that says to me? It says that we can never give up hope that our families can be restored. We need to be watchful and prayerful and waiting for God to hear and answer the prayers we pray for our families, and we need to pray about everything.
We need to pray that bad moods will become cheerful. We need to pray that people will look for ways to serve each other and encourage each other rather than be selfish and self-absorbed. We need to pray that our family members will be respectful and responsible. We need to pray that our kids will date and marry Christians. We need to pray that our kids will say “no” to drugs and premarital sex. We need to pray that our kids will be leaders and not followers, that our kids will demonstrate the love of Christ and help be peacemakers in their schools. We need to pray that our homes will be places where the truth is spoken in love, where it is ok to admit we are struggling, and where we spend time praying for one another. We need to pray for better communication and increased intimacy in our marriages.
As long as you are praying about your family struggles you are exercising faith and hope that things can change. Don’t stop praying.
Keep watching over the horizon for God to do something to bring your family together in Him. We don’t know how long the younger son was estranged, but the text seems to indicate it was more than a few weeks. You are never without hope as long as you can pray.
If our homes are ever going to come together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, prayer must pave the way.
Coming together as families is going to involve love and prayer for sure, but perhaps one of the most healing choices individual family members can make is repentance, being sorry for their part in creating division in the family. In verse 21 the younger brother told his father he was sorry for how he had acted. He understood that how he had behaved was serious. He said that he had sinned against his dad and against heaven. He was accountable not only to his family, but to God for what he had done to the family. Repentance was the testimony that this boy came home differently than he had left. There was a humility to his attitude. There was a tenderness about him. He didn’t want to come home demanding anything. He just wanted to come home.
Something about this story that I think we as families need to keep in mind is that every person in our family is responsible for their own choices. The father was responsible for how he was going to act when the son came home. The prodigal was responsible for his choices to have left in the first place and chose to humbly repent. The elder brother had a choice to make about how he could help the family come together, and he made a different choice, one that kept the family divided.
If our homes are ever going to come together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, each person must realize they are accountable not only to one another, but to God Himself for how we respond to one another.
So, the older brother wasn’t happy about the homecoming celebration for his little brother. Instead of rejoicing that he had come home and that their family was back together, he made it all about himself. He refused to come to the party. He talked about how it wasn’t fair that someone who didn’t follow the rules got a party, when he had stayed home, followed the rules and had never gotten one.
Do you know that according to Jewish law, the elder brother would have gotten 2/3 of the estate while the younger brother received just 1/3 (Deut. 21:17)? He had already been blessed by the father. He already had received more than his brother. He hadn’t squandered his inheritance. He still had all of his money. His brother was coming home with nothing. Yet rather than be thankful for what his father had done for him and for what he still had, the older brother chose to hold a grudge against his brother and became jealous that his dad wanted to celebrate his homecoming. Life wasn’t going to be easy for this younger brother who was coming home with nothing, and instead of making it easier, the older brother was going to make it harder.
In Jewish families, the elder sons had a fatherly status. He had a strong responsibility to make things better. He should have been a mediator in the face of a family crisis. He had resources and a position to help his younger brother get re-established, but instead he pouted. Could it be that he was holding a grudge because his brother left him as the only son which meant he had to do more work at home on the family estate? You can understand that when one “irresponsible” son leaves home the “responsible” son will have to pick up the slack. You can empathize that it isn’t fair. Perhaps when the younger son left it made more work for the older son, something he had become angry about and couldn’t easily let go. Whatever the reason for the grudge, he sure had one.
The father in the story wasn’t going to let the elder son just pout. He went to him and confronted him about his attitude. He helped him see that the most important thing was that the younger son had come home. Everything else was secondary. He challenged his perspective and helped him understand that it wasn’t all about him.
If our homes are ever going to come together under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we are going to need to see things from God’s perspective and let grudges go so that healing can come.
Jesus didn’t give us the rest of the story. We don’t hear a “Happily Ever After” message about how the two boys reconciled and became BFF’S and how they lived as one big happy family. They had work to do in order for that to happen.
I don’t know what family you wish yours could be like. When you say, “I’d like to be THAT family,” what is it that is so appealing and inspiring that you want to become like them? But I am encouraging you to be a Christian family. Be THAT family where love leads the way. Be THAT family where prayer paves the way. Be THAT family where each person is accountable not only to the family members but to God for how they act. And be THAT family where grudges go in order that the family can heal.