Saturday, February 11, 2017

Heaven isn’t about loyalty

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son Jesus tells us a story of two sons, one loyal and the other not. The not-so-loyal son, thinking he was deserving of his inheritance early, spent everything he had on harlots and sinful living. The loyal son remained at home with their father and maintained the family business. The not-so-loyal son found himself broke and hungry with nothing to call his own. The loyal son had the family wealth at his fingertips whenever he desired. After a long separation, the three were reunited. The not-so-loyal son was comforted by the father while the loyal son found himself suffering with anger.

What was the difference? Both sons were loved by the father, but only one experienced his love as comfort. When the not-so-loyal son returned to his father to become a servant, the father was willing to forget his sins and selfishness and welcome him home again. The father never once stopped waiting for his son to return, and the son felt the father’s love deep in his heart. The loyal son, though he never left the father, refused to experience the father’s love as comfort. Instead he could only resent his brother for returning home as if nothing had happened. The father never stopped sharing everything he had with the loyal son, but the loyal son never accepted his father’s love.

The difference was love. Without love the son’s loyalty was nothing more than a job. Without love the father may have forgiven the son, but would never have welcomed him home. Without love both sons would be left out in the cold, but with love both sons had the potential of being comforted by the father. Love makes all the difference.

The Orthodox Church teaches that this parable is about our reality of being loved by God. If we experience God’s love as comfort, we will be in heaven. If we experience God’s love as a burden and unfair as the loyal so experienced, we will be in hell. Heaven and hell won’t be about whether or not we sinned. Heaven and hell will be about how we experience God’s love.

Do you want to be in heaven? Then you must learn the lesson of love. Love isn’t about loyalty and obligation. Love is about forgiveness and repentance. As we continue our preparations for Great Lent, the Church invites us to choose to experience God’s love for what He intends. God loves every one of us, loyal or not. It is our choice how we experience His love.

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