The Tragedy of The Parable of the Prodigal Son

Every time I read The Parable of the Prodigal Son I am struck by the behavior of the oldest son. Ever notice how we never really get a resolution at the end of the story? The story doesn’t close with the oldest son saying, “You’re right, Dad. I’m so glad my brother is home – let’s go celebrate.”

My gut feeling is that the oldest son storms away from both his dad and brother, allowing his pride and anger to get the best of him until his resentment grows and turns into hate. It becomes pretty clear by the end of the story that he always did what was right with the expectation of getting favor from his father and an elevated status in the household. As soon as that assumption is questioned by the father receiving the younger son with open arms, the older brother’s real motive comes out.

We often read the story through the lens of the younger brother, relieved that God is a father of love and mercy, ready to receive us back with open arms. What we fail to see, though, is that more times than not we are the older brother – judging and prideful. The younger brother did not just sin against the father; he sinned in some of the worst ways possible. He spat on his father’s reputation so he could have money to have sex with whores and live in squalor.

Most of us in the church have never gone this low. Sure, we’re not perfect, but we’re not included in the lowest wretches of society either. And the pride of every Christian loves God’s forgiveness in his or her own life but scorns it in elsewhere. Don’t believe me? When’s the last time you invited a recovering drug addict, abuser, murderer, rapist over for dinner? Which one of us would have no problem introducing a prostitute to all of our church friends?

You see, God’s love isn’t fair. It’s radical. So radical that it bore nails for people that torture children, rape the innocent, kill for fun. I’m being a bit extreme to make a point. But seriously. Those people have just as much right to the love of God as the most ardent churchgoer. All it takes is for them to recognize their sin and come home like the youngest son did. Ugh. That’s not the kind of grace we like. We like our moments of anger, our quick unclean thoughts, our occasional gossip to be forgiven….But murderers? Rapists? Sadists? Those people need to pay.

And there lies the pride that quickly puts us all in the place of the older brother. Are you happy to see the worst of society in your church? Do you run to embrace them and welcome them home? Or do you wonder what the hell the lady with the short skirt and tits practically out is doing in church? Are you appalled by the stench of liquor on the man sitting next to you?

I relate with the older brother. I hate the fact that God reserves the same place at his table for people who have drifted in sin all their life as for the saintly. I deserve a gold star if I wait in line the whole time and not just cut to the front. That man who killed his wife sure as hell better not get the same reward as me.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son is a relief but mostly, it’s a tragedy. We all like to think we’re the broken son who gets embraced by his loving father. We can even see God running towards us – smile on his face and his arms opened wide. Unfortunately, for the most part, that’s a fantasy. We’re the pissed off brother in the corner fuming, asking, “What about me?” We’re the one questioning the fairness of love that sees everyone equally. We’re the one saying, “How dare you not give me my due for all the time, energy, and devotion I gave you.”

No single sin disqualifies you from the love of God, but your pride disqualifies God from your love. It is the deadliest and most serious of all sins. Yes, even worse than murder. Maybe not in the eyes of the law but in the eyes of God. It is easy for a murderer to know he is wicked. Blood is stained upon his hands. If he wants redemption, he comes broken. “My God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” But for the “good” pride causes a major blind spot, we come to God with chin up, head held high saying, “I’m not THAT bad.” In order to receive the grace and love of God, you must first know you need it. Pride is deadly because it convinces us that we have nothing to be sorry for, that there’s nothing that we need from God. And paradoxically, the son who never walked away is still the farthest from the father.

Conversion Poem About the Love and Grace of God

Conversion
A Poem About the Love and Grace of God

I began divided.
Quite selfish with a heart hungry for evil
yet filled with a deep longing brewing
below the surface that never seemed fulfilled
by anything other than you.
So what was I to do - 
in love with myself and my selfish desires
but realizing more each day my need for you?

I opened my ears to your voice
but kept my heart safely distant.
You told me to follow you.
And I obeyed...
at a snail's pace,
slowly inching my way towards your grace.

The closer I came the louder my name
reverberated from your lips.
Though the louder too were my selfish longings.
Lust ran high in the dry, dusty desert of restraint
and tried to pull me back
into the slavery of gratification.
 
I gave in time and time again
but refused to allow my sin
to convince me to hide in shame from you.
For at the core of my being,
I knew you held something true - 
an answer to a question about the essence of life itself
that couldn't be answered along any other path but yours.

So I continued hauling my heavy shell behind me
and sluggishly crawled onward,
but the way forward didn't get any easier.
I only found myself more divided,
fragmented into forces fighting within myself.

My head became a bed for commotion,
tossing me to and fro like the waves of the ocean.
The inner struggle only made me more aware
of the seriousness of my situation:
I had a head full of God
and a heart unwavering it its insistence
upon serving itself.

It was daunting,
haunting me in its clutches
and causing me to lose sleep
like a nightmare stuck on repeat,
waking me up in the night
to the harsh realities of life.

How was I to serve two masters
and attend to both of their matters?
My ego wasn't lulled to sleep
nor cowered to the call for its destruction.
But raged and rattled the cage
your spirit had created for it.

I trusted that your grace
was vaster than all the stars
shinning forth forgiveness in the dark
to the farthest corners of the universe;
surely my sin was no match for your goodness.

I resolved to stop worrying
so much about "do nots"
that I never seemed capable of obeying
and to focus on following through on the "dos"
I was perfectly capable of undertaking.

And there your spirit freed
a seemingly unsavable prisoner
from the bondage of self
and turned me towards the Divine.
For you kept me so busy doing your will
that I forgot about mine.

Justin Farley

Living in Love Poem About Loving Yourself and Others

Living in Love

To live in Love
we must first accept
the imperfection within ourselves
before we can accept
the imperfection in others.

To live in Love
we must first bandage
our own wounds
before we treat
the wounds of the world.

I grant grace to you
in your weakness
to the extent that I allow
God to grant grace
to me in mine...

Such a simple request,
such a simple gesture, 
requires opening
such a tightly clasped lock
by speaking the hardest phrase
known to mankind:
"I need help."

Humility precedes Love - 
you'll never find Love
until you quit trying to fool yourself
into believing you don't need Love.

We grow in grace
by first accepting our mistakes.
Once we grasp the extent
of our own limitations and flaws,
we begin to see
the world, others, and ourselves
as we are - 
flawed and limited
but nonetheless deserving of love.

Justin Farley

Hello, everyone! I have recently published my first chapbook of Christian poems titled “A Voice in the Wilderness – A Chapbook of Poems about God”. This has been developed and polished over the past six months or so. I am happy with the final product and hope you find encouragement in the poems but also a validation that the spiritual life is not all sunshine and rainbows. We all struggle. We all have periods of questions and/or doubt. But it is the yearning that keeps us coming back for more and allows us to experience joy.
You can purchase either on Amazon or on my own bookstore (it is cheaper and has free shipping on my store) and is available on the Kindle and in paperback.
Amazon: Kindle Paperback
Inkspiration Books (my bookstore): Paperback

Thank you for your support!

Grace – A Poem

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Grace – A Poem

I am awed by the way you move me
like freshly fallen snowflakes dusting across the frozen ground.
Some days I forget the barren tundra from which I came
and how you whispered by name, echoing across that vacant landscape
so that a lost soul could be found.

Some days time passes by me without a single thought
that each waking moment is a treasure –
a gift granted, light years away from being deserved.
But despite all my wrongs and all the foolish footpaths
I chose to walk, in my time of desperation I called
and without hesitation you answered.

Each single second is abounding opportunity,
a renewed possibility for new life.
My destination was one I was unable to arrive at
by the work of my own hands, but while I lingered,
withering away in the darkness, you nestled me
within your loving embrace and brought me back into the light.

The fact that I breathe and my heart beats
is a living testament to your endless love and grace.
May I never forget from where I came and that each day is a gift
that I should unceasingly praise and never waste.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley


 

photo credit: Morning mist via photopin (license)

The Abundance of Your Mercy – A Christian Poem For Lent

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The Abundance of Your Mercy – A Christian Poem For Lent 

In the hour of my tribulation,
I fail the same trials and tests
Time and time again.
Delighting for a fleeting moment in my selfish pleasures
Before becoming quickly convicted of my sin.

Do I find peace, joy, or comfort in my lustful wallowing?
Surely not more than a meager taste,
Only to leave starving all the more.
So why do I continue to turn away from you
When you hold the keys to my prison door?

I simply don’t have an answer for my actions,
Besides some part of me that longs
For the taste of forbidden fruit.
In my moment of heated passion, my heart deviates from reason
And accepts selfish lies and denies eternal truth.

It is not only action that sentences me,
But waves of remorse and guilt that fill me up
And cut me to the core.
After all my deceit and broken promises
How do I come crawling back and call you Lord?

But let not my finite mind
Rule out the abundance of the love
And mercy that fills your cup.
Let me simply praise your name,
Humbly accept it, and drink the New Covenant up.

-Poem Written by Justin Farley

If you enjoyed this post, I would greatly appreciate it if you like, share, or comment on it. Follow my blog to receive notifications when new posts are published. You can find my other Christian poems, Lent poems, or inspirational poems at https://alongthebarrenroad.com/category/poetry/


 

photo credit: The Last Supper 31 via photopin (license)

Struggling With Sin

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7:15)

prayerI think just about everyone can relate to this verse. We find ourselves committing the same sins over and over again, even after we swear we’ll never commit them again. This may be one of the hardest things about developing a relationship with Christ. We know what we should do, we want to please Jesus, but then time and time again we fall to our sinful nature. After we commit the sin, we are then left with the overwhelming guilt and inadequacy that follows.

We should strive to be perfect, but understand that we will never be. I think we have a tendency to believe that when we follow Christ, all our past struggles and sins will become easy to conquer. In fact, in many ways the opposite is true. Once the Holy Spirit enters your life and convicts you of sin, your eyes are opened to how sinful your life is. What you may have thought were a few minor problems are revealed as major stumbling blocks to a relationship with God. But the one thing that you have now that you didn’t have before is the aid of Jesus if you reach out to him.

Christianity is so comforting in many ways. Not only do we have a God who cares, but also a Savior who became man. We can’t use the excuse “…but you don’t know what it’s like” because he does. Jesus felt all the temptations that you and I face on a daily basis. He knows how powerful sin is and what we are faced against. That does not mean he gives us a get out of jail free card to do whatever we want, but we can be assured that he knows how hard it is to do the right thing.

If you look at the actions of Peter and Judas before the crucifixion, they are very similar. Judas betrayed Jesus and handed him over to die, while Peter denied him and abandoned him. I guess you could argue that Judas committed the worse sin, but they’re pretty equal. The events that followed their sins, however, are vastly different.  Judas did not believe he could ever be forgiven and killed himself. Peter, on the other hand, sought Christ’s forgiveness and became one of the greatest leaders in the history of the Church.

Our greatest threat to our relationship with God is not the original sin we commit, but believing that we’re not worthy of forgiveness. We are never too far gone. There is no sin that is greater than the mercy of Jesus. Allow shame to convict you and motivate you to change, but don’t let it tell you that you’re worthless or unlovable. Call on Jesus to extend his grace to you and pray that he gives you the strength to battle your sins. He is waiting with an extended hand to welcome you back into his arms, but you have to grab a hold of his hand.


 

photo credit: Prayer for peace 1 via photopin (license)

Hate the Sin Love the Sinner – A Christian Poem

8463251783_b01d980eeeOne of the hardest things to do as Christians is to uphold the truth of the Word, while at the same time not judging or condemning people. Comments like: “If they’re offended at what I say, they need to take it up with God because all I am doing is spreading his Word” seem to be an excuse for self-righteousness and does nothing but fuel hate and anger. Many non-believers hatred of Christianity steams from this idea that Christians are hypocritical and judgmental. In many ways, I think they have a point. But do we just sit back and let the people we care about make sinful and damaging choices without speaking up?

This topic is much easier said behind the safety of a computer screen. When I was wishy washy in my faith and even strong in my faith, I’ve never wanted to be the annoying jerk that feels they need to call out every person’s flaw and threaten them with hell if they don’t repent. But last night, someone I care about mentioned wanting to do something that is totally against God and everything I stand for. Something that I never thought in a million years I’d hear this person say. And anger fueled within me. I became the person I never wanted to be and wanted to lash out at them and tell them how wrong they were. The only way we can spread the Word lovingly is by remembering God’s mercy for us. In the midst of our sin, he sent his son, Jesus, to die for us. We can’t console with love and compassion until we realize that God’s grace is the only difference between the sinner and saint. Never compromising, but speaking from a place of love, not anger.

Loving In Spite Of Sin

Your words set my heart on fire,
Anger burns, steaming like smoldering coals,
But I can’t allow the heat
To escape my mouth.

I close my chimney and seal my lips shut.
But the pressure boils.
Smoke clouds my vision
Without the flue damper open.

How do I stay true to my heart
Without scalding the recipients with my words?
How do I strip away the pride, anger, and self-righteousness
So that only God’s voice will be heard?

How do I keep loving them
When their behaviors disgust me?
How do I walk on the path of truth
With love, but without compromise?

The bonfire burns in my belly
And ash builds on the tip of my tongue.
My conscience is convicted,
But my love is dazed and stunned.

A glance in the mirror
Reveals your divine wisdom
and shatters my arrogant pride
In broken shards scattered across the floor.

My reflection reveals
That I’m just as filthy as the next man.
In your eyes, by my own righteousness,
I am just as unclean as the darkest sin.

And I have not been able
To bathe in soap and water and scrub away
my mistakes by own own actions,
But only by bathing in your precious blood.

Guide me in grace.
May my actions and words
Always wear your face,
And may my convictions be spread with love.

– Poem Written by Justin Farley

If you enjoyed the post, you may be interested in my other Christian poems or inspirational poems https://alongthebarrenroad.com/category/poetry/


 

Photo Credit: Soumyadeep Paul via Compfight cc