The Winter Of Our Lives

She really had waited too long

Mrs. Anderson had been putting off raking her leaves. She had the time and opportunity. She just didn’t know whether she had the strength and motivation.

When she was younger it wasn’t a problem. But now in her golden years it had become a chore.

After her two morning cups of coffee, and some preemptive painkillers, she bundled up. Rake. Gloves. Bags. Out the garage door.

Checking the direction of the wind, she decided where to start. She worked slower than in the past, with more moments when she would pause. She preferred to look over what had been done, rather than what was left.

She chuckled when she saw the symbolism. Lately she had been thinking more about what she had accomplished when she was younger, and not wanting to think about what lies ahead.

Raising her kids, her education and career, her service in her church and community, were good memories. She had always taken pride in what she had done, making a contribution, setting an example.

Now? Now it was an effort to do much of anything. She still made it to church most Sundays, one way to show God respect. But as she saw others hustling to do this and that, she longed to jump in and help.

Another bag filled. Another pause. She looked at the cleaner section of the yard, and then remembered something her pastor had said a while back.

He was talking about Philippians 1. The Apostle Paul talked about his own dilemma. He knew if he passed, he would finally be with Jesus. But if he stayed, he could continue to help the churches.

Knowing the end would come someday regardless, and knowing he still had a contribution to make, he decided to soldier on. He would continue to do whatever he could with whatever time he had left.

Mrs. Anderson realized she had paused longer than normal. The leaves rustled.

There were still ways she could help.

Showing up at church set an example. She could still smile at everyone, and share an encouraging word. There were first-time visitors that needed to be welcomed and know that someone noticed them.

There were encouragement cards that could be written. She could still make phone calls to other widows, especially the ones who couldn’t get out. Then there was prayer. That could be her specialty.

Her service in the past had meaning. What she could do now could still make a difference.

Turning around to start raking again she saw them. The single mom from across the street, and her two boys, had just reached her yard, rakes in hand.

They didn’t say a word, but started raking at the end of Mrs. Anderson’s driveway.

How kind she thought. Others would be there to pitch in and help, here and at church.

She smiled, told them thank you, and began to rake again.

——————

Dave Soucie lives, serves and writes in Indianapolis.

Copyright © 2022 by Dave Soucie.  All rights reserved [but permission is granted for non-commercial use only, with proper citation].

Counterculture Christians

The counterculture is something we haven’t heard much about in recent years. It refers to something out of the mainstream, different, implying a rejection of the status quo.

In 20th century America that would include the Dada avant-garde movement after World War I, the beatniks after World War II, and the hippies that came a decade later.

The Church has always had two types of countercultural Christians. There have been movements like the Amish, who have set themselves apart in multiple ways. Church history is full of communities of faith that felt it was important to distance themselves from mainstream Christendom. Given the church’s unavoidable struggle as it resists worldly influences that damages Christian witness, the dissenter’s withdrawal is understandable.

The Jesus Freaks of the 1960s are a more recent example of how some believers sought to celebrate an authentic faith apart from the traditional church.

Yet there is another way to think of countercultural Christians. Throughout most of its history, the church has been out of sync with the rest of the world. It has values the world rejects. It places a higher priority on selfless sacrifice. It believes in absolute truth. It looks deep, beyond the obvious. Christians are willing and seasoned practitioners of delayed gratification.  They bow to a Heavenly Lord and pledge their lives and service, present and future, to his Kingdom.

Some of these peculiarities have infiltrated society, but are not deeply held. These half-hearted attempts mean some people risk being the house built on sand. https://davesoucie.wordpress.com/2017/06/03/surviving-the-storm/

You might be thinking that those who reject these beliefs are the real counterculture. After all, doesn’t the deeply entrenched Judeo-Christian ethic dominate our culture?

It’s not that simple. There have been times in American history when the Church has had a greater influence than during other eras. There was the Great Awakening and the Second Great Awakening. After World War II we entered another season where the Church’s influence had an enormous impact on society. We are now experiencing an overreaction to that influence.

For most of history, the values of true believers were not compatible with the mainstream. When I say true believers, I acknowledge my conviction that some who identify as Christian haven’t done their best to live out the teachings of Jesus, or the faith found in the New Testament.

It’s been said for years that Europe has become Post-Christian, believing they’ve tried Christianity and were disappointed. Some of that disillusionment resulted from the horrors of two world wars. Then there’s the question as to whether authentic Christianity was actually practiced by most.

Today, America is following the same pattern. More and more often, Christian values are being rejected by a growing number of those who choose to be in the dark.

Some of what most people think they know about God, Jesus, the Bible and the Church comes from misinformation from uninformed family and friends who have little or no idea what they’re talking about. It’s both sad and tragic.  Because they don’t have the full picture, many will keep their distance from authentic Christianity.

This has been the norm for most of the Church’s history. Jesus warned his people that they would face rejection, persecution, and even death. [Matthew 5:10-12, Matthew 24:9, John 15:19-20, John 16:1-4. See also Paul; 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, 2nd Timothy 3:10-12. See also Peter; 1 Peter 1:6-7, 2:20-21, 4:12-19]

As always, the pendulum swings. We are now returning to a time when a growing portion of the population ignores or rejects Christian values, and attack those who don’t.

Christians frequently do well in such an environment. It helps weed out those without conviction. It helps true believers better cherish their faith. We can see how in those parts of the world where persecution is the worst, the church thrives the best.

When I look around and witness the trends in my country, I’m proud to be countercultural.

——————

Dave Soucie lives, serves and writes in Indianapolis.

Copyright © 2022 by Dave Soucie.  All rights reserved [but permission is granted for non-commercial use only, with proper citation].

There Is A Master Plan

The Lord of Heaven longs to embrace and cherish the family he craves.

Before that family can be with him, he knows certain things need to be accomplished.

He needs to create a space where the humans can grow and learn and be responsible with the free will he will give them. Without that free will, they will never be able to show that their decisions and love are genuine.

God will give them guidance to follow. They may not fully understand the whys but they will learn the whats. The rules will help them stay safe and learn the value of obedience.

When they fail, he will give them a chance to make it up with a sacrifice to temporarily pay the debt of sin. This will help them appreciate that ignoring him has consequences. Someday some will come to appreciate the full and final payment when it is paid.

Knowing their understanding will remain a work in progress, he sometimes will need to resort to acts of punishment that may not make sense to them, or to believers in the future. But an all-knowing all-loving God knows what it takes for young children to learn to respect him and grow more mature.

After these lessons have made an impression, he will make a personal appearance. He will take human form, walk and live among them, showing them he does indeed understand.

He will broaden their understanding of his deeper truths, and give them a chance to mature beyond their child’s understanding.  They will have a chance to see a bigger picture of the purposes of God.

To prove the depth of his determination and sincerity, to show his love for all, he would need to commit himself to the most dramatic act. He will sacrifice his life for them, for there is no greater gift one can give to prove the extent of love. By shedding his own blood, he pays the full and final price for humanity’s sin.

A new era will begin where all will then have their chance to know him.

The task will be great, challenges immense, enemies on all sides. They will need his power from above to triumph. God intentionally planned to fill them with an extra measure of his Spirit, to enable them to succeed beyond all expectations, empowering them to spread the message of his love throughout the world to all nations.

He will help them mature into responsible productive disciplined adult children of God who will devote their lives to him and his kingdom.

Then, when he knows the time is right, he will bring history to a close. He will conclude his epic effort to prepare his people for their forever future. He will commission them to serve him and his vision in ways they could have never imagined in their former lives.

This is the Master Plan, as God guides the willing to be prepared for what he has planned for all those who love him.

——————

Dave Soucie lives, serves and writes in Indianapolis.

Copyright © 2022 by Dave Soucie.  All rights reserved [but permission is granted for non-commercial use only, with proper citation].

Some Risks Are Even More Dangerous Than Others

You are driving down the highway. Speed limit is 70. Can you can nudge it up to 72 mph and not have a problem? Sure. What about 76, 79, 82, 87, 91?

The more you go beyond what the law allows, the more risk you take. You may or may not be pulled over for speeding. You could get off with a warning, or be issued a ticket. If you get a ticket, you might even have to make a court appearance before a judge.

Worse, by speeding you risk a very serious car accident. You may be severely hurt, or die. Your passengers could be injured or killed. You might even take the life of someone in another vehicle.

There’s even the possibility that you could be found guilty of manslaughter and go to prison.

The more you go beyond what the law allows, the more risk you take, and the worse the consequences.

God created us so he could have someone to love. His heart is so big he had room for billions. But a relationship with us is a partnership, and requires a right response from us.

He gives us guidance for life for the same reason a loving parent helps their child to grow into responsible maturity.

How much of God’s expectations can we safely ignore, and still enjoy peace, grace and salvation? We’ll never meet his expectations perfectly, but … well … I’ll get to that later.

1. He expects us not only to believe he is there, but believe he knows what he’s talking about, that he has the truth (Acts 16:31, Galatians 2:16).

2. He wants us to admit/confess that we need his help, that we cannot save ourselves, that without him will never make it to Heaven (Matthew 10:32-33, Romans 10:9-11).

3. He needs us to turn away from those things that have distracted us from him. The term for this is the Greek military word for retreat; repent (Luke 13:3, Acts 2:38).

4. He has given us a symbolic act by which we can demonstrate our commitment to show our faith in him (Colossians 2:12), be cleansed of our past mistakes (Acts 22:16), and begin a new life, a do-over (Romans 6:4).

5. After these opportunities, he calls on us to be faithful, to not waste this chance to be in his family, to remain faithful to him through the rest of our lives (Revelation 2:10c, Matthew 10:22).

Can you or I do any of these perfectly? No. Grace can be defined as “Do your best and God will cover the rest.” Got expects his children (John 1:12-13) to accept the gift of these steps, doing our best to honor what he expects from us.

If someone is truly ignorant, I believe God takes that into consideration, and they receive an extra dose of grace. But if you are the type of person who reads articles like this, you are not ignorant.

Can we risk disregarding parts of his will and still presume to be in his grace? Perhaps. But how much risk are you willing to take?

Imagine that God expects us to not go over 70 on the highway of life. Can we get away with 72? Because of grace, sure. But should we risk 76, 79, 82, 87, 91?

Given what is at stake, in a short life here compared with an eternity with him or without him, that is quite a gamble.

——————

Dave Soucie lives, serves and writes in Indianapolis.

Copyright © 2022 by Dave Soucie.  All rights reserved [but permission is granted for non-commercial use only, with proper citation].

Christian Passion Fades Or Matures Or Stalls

We have a custom called “The Honeymoon.” It’s a special time for newlyweds. Years later the love should remain, but the experience is different. I will not go into detail.

When the student gets their driver’s license, they are beyond eager to drive, anywhere. They will quickly volunteer to drive grandma to get her hair done, as long as they get to drive. Later, after decades of routine driving, the mood changes. There are countless things we’d rather do than to have to drive some place.

What begins with passion can settle into something else.

For some that explains their experience with their faith as it fades over time. For others the initial passion changes, evolves, matures into something very different than what they felt when they first believed.

I’ve known new believers who are a flash in the pan. So excited at first, then it quickly drops off. Sometimes this process only takes weeks.

They haven’t given themselves a chance to allow their faith to grow, to gain a deeper understanding of the truths of God, to discover their role in the Body of Christ.

Their acceptance of Christ was primarily emotional, and emotions change.

They are the plants that grow quickly, then quickly die. [Matthew 13:5-6, 20-21] [See https://davesoucie.wordpress.com/2022/03/04/a-farmer-walks-into-a-bar/]

There are others who understand that their initial excitement may settle down. If their spiritual adrenaline remains high, that’s great. But that may not be common. Different Christians react differently when their emotions change.

As someone matures in the faith, they are able to see deeper into the divine truths. They gain a broader appreciation for the grace of God. They begin to see more and more opportunities to be of service.

Their Christian lives shift from discovering what they’ve gained, to realizing how much they can give. The ways they serve will vary, because we’ve all been given different gifts [1 Corinthians 12:4-31]. But all are called to do something in service to God and others.

In their service, they live out what Jesus taught when he said that it’s more of a blessing to give than to receive [Acts 20:35]. We enjoy being of service, making a difference, changing the world.

These believers also grow in their ability to love, forgive, understand, and share grace. They have matured from spiritual babies to maturing adults.

God loves us all, but these are the people that make him the most proud [Matthew 13:8, 23].

Unfortunately, not everyone makes it that far. I’m not just talking about those who quickly fade. There are those who fall in between.

These are the people who don’t walk away from their faith, but seem to be stuck in some holding pattern. They are more likely to believe it’s all about them. They feel spiritually safe, and assume it’s all good. They haven’t learned to extend grace to the struggling, comfort to the hurting, acceptance to the lonely.

Every pastor knows these people. They show up nearly every week and check off their attendance with pride, confident they have done the church a favor by showing up.  A word of warning; being lukewarm is dangerous [Revelation 3:14-18].

This is why all pastors know every congregation is a mission field. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

To those who have matured in their faith, thank you for being patient with those who have not.

To those who are comfortable in between, you are holding yourself back from experiencing more than you can imagine.

To those who gave up too quickly, we’ll leave the light on for you.

——————

Dave Soucie lives, serves and writes in Indianapolis.

Copyright © 2022 by Dave Soucie.  All rights reserved [but permission is granted for non-commercial use only, with proper citation].

Rogue Christians

There is a Mexican restaurant not far from our house, that got into some legal trouble a few years ago. (Tax evasion)

I suppose Debbie and I could have decided to henceforth avoid all Mexican restaurants. Except we really like Mexican cuisine, and have now found a place that we like better than all the others.

I’ll guess most would agree that just because one place is a problem, that doesn’t mean all Mexican places are a problem. That would be prejudicial, painting with too broad a brush, and Debbie would never again be able to enjoy chimichanga.

And yet that is how some treat the Church.

Once in a while some Christian does or says something completely wrong. In my mind, these are things that are part stupid, part irresponsible, and part of violation of the spirit of Christ. Actually, a complete violation of the spirit of Christ.

Those who love to attack the Church are thrilled, and use it as proof that all churches are evil.

A politician makes reference to God, and uses it to justify all sorts of ridiculous actions. The haters are happy, and their prejudices are reinforced.

Most TV preachers will routinely talk about donating money, except for the few who won’t. Most local church pastors will rarely talk about donations, except for the few who talk about it constantly. I can’t imagine how many times I’ve heard people complain about how churches only care about money.  That is a worn out exaggeration that was never true, but is repeated by the ill informed who love to bash the Church.

There was a Christian satire magazine entitled The Wittenburg Door. (Yes, that’s how they spelled it, but that’s another story.) They had a monthly Green Weenie Award that they would bestow on someone who did something completely inappropriate in the name of Christ. The column was both disturbing and hilarious.

At times I’m tempted to retaliate against those who hate and attack the Church. I could easily point out that atheist dictators of the 20th century were responsible for the deaths of well over 100 million people. I could then suggest that anyone who rejects the possibility of God is a potential mass murderer. Maybe we should hurry up and lock them up before they have a chance to do their worst!

But that would be treating them like they treat the Church. I’m not going to do that. Some of them might even change their perspective and attitude someday, and become an incredible asset in the Kingdom of God.

It’s happened plenty of times before. Little else would make me happier.

——————

Dave Soucie lives, serves and writes in Indianapolis.

Copyright © 2022 by Dave Soucie.  All rights reserved [but permission is granted for non-commercial use only, with proper citation].

Proud And Sad To Be Misunderstood

Sometimes it’s okay to be misunderstood.

If I were to take up an unusual hobby, something my family and friends would think is odd, I would expect to be misunderstood. I shouldn’t take their bewilderment as an offense. They just don’t understand my passionate joy collecting a wide variety of toothpicks.

But if I felt I’m being misunderstood over something I believe to be extremely important, that’s different.

There’s an area of my life where I’m both proud and sad to be misunderstood.

When Jesus was in the Upper Room with the Apostles right before his arrest, he warned them that they would be mistreated. They would be attacked by those who thought they understood the nature of God, but were in fact clueless. The Apostles would be misunderstood and should be ready to be persecuted. [John 15:21]

Years later John, one of those Apostles, wrote about how Christians will be misunderstood. [1 John 3:1] It’s a problem still faced by all believers.

It was the Apostle Paul who explained why. In 1 Corinthians 2:14 he talks about how those whose priority is on the here and now, the natural man, cannot understand the priorities of those whose attention extends beyond the here and now. Without the Spirit of God, some things will never make sense to them.

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. [1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV]

Earlier in that letter he spoke of how the whole concept of Christ’s sacrifice makes no sense to those who have rejected God. [1 Corinthians 1:18]

If some misunderstand my faith, I’ll take that as an affirmation that I must be on the right track. I also know I’m in good company.

There are parts of the world where Christians face horrible persecution. When they show kindness and compassion and forgiveness to those who persecute them, their attackers are confused. What’s wrong with these Christians? Why aren’t they retaliating? The persecutors just don’t understand.

But I also find it sad.

Those who refuse to consider the possibility of a loving God have cheated themselves of his peace and presence.

When someone only regards Jesus as a great moral teacher, they limit themselves to only a small part of his message.

If they believe Christ’s Church is an enemy of humankind, they’ve allowed themselves to be manipulated by those who only look at the occasional failures, and ignore the overwhelming goodness.

Proud. Sad. It’s a strange mix of emotions, but one I know that other believers understand.

——————

Dave Soucie lives, serves and writes in Indianapolis.

Copyright © 2022 by Dave Soucie.  All rights reserved [but permission is granted for non-commercial use only, with proper citation].

Christian, Christianity, persecution, God, Christ, faith, Spirit of God, Holy Spirit, I Cor. 2:14,  I Corinthians 2:14, Apologetics,

My Neighbors In Heaven

I need to confess my own ignorance.

Revelation 21:1-4 describes Heaven as a place of perfect peace where God’s people can live with him. I take that literally.

But as far as all the other passages that explain the nature of Heaven, or Hell for that matter, they remain a mystery to me. I don’t know if I should read them literally or figuratively.

I believe the fuller truth of both places is beyond our comprehension. We are incapable of understanding the details because they are in dimensions completely beyond our experience, totally outside of frames of reference.

That said, for me and others, we know enough, literal or figurative, to be able to make a clear choice. [See And The Restaurant From Hell   https://davesoucie.wordpress.com/2017/04/08/and-the-restaurant-from-hell/]

But there’s another description about Heaven I think can be known.

The faithful believer is not going to be alone. Heaven is a place where God’s people come together to enjoy his presence and peace.

So, who are those other people?

Most believe they’ll see their beloved family members. I’ll agree, as long as those relatives have a genuine saving faith. Otherwise, it’s just wishful thinking.

Matthew 7:21  “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Jesus

Faithful family?  Yes.  But who else?

Faith leaders? Perhaps. 

We’ve all known or heard about selfish charlatans who abuse their positions for their own advantage. This is a very old problem and long predates Christianity. Then there are others who have faithfully devoted their whole lives to serving God. They deserve our admiration and respect.

I’m fully confident that God is capable of sorting the goats from the sheep. [Matthew 25:31-46]

Good people? Maybe.

Most Americans believe good people go to Heaven. This is incorrect. Heaven will not be filled with good people, it’s for forgiven people.  We cannot earn our way into Heaven.

The New Testament teaches us that it takes a contrite heart, admitting the need for grace, asking and receiving forgiveness for ones failures, and trusting Christ as Savior, to have the humble privilege of joining the Father.  How much of God’s expectations can we ignore? I’d rather not find out. There’s too much at stake.

The old cliche remains true. We are not saved by what we do, but what we do shows that we are saved.

Sinners? Yes.

The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, which was all capital letters. But for our purposes let’s think of Sinners with a capital S and sinners with a small s.

Romans 3:23 is very clear – everyone messes up. When Jesus talks about Sinners he was talking about those whose sins would be the lead story on the evening news. He’s not talking about the rest whose sins wouldn’t even be mentioned on a slow news day.

Whether a Sinner or a sinner, we all have the chance to except grace and be welcomed into the Kingdom of God. [See Late To The Party  https://davesoucie.wordpress.com/2022/07/22/late-to-the-party/]

Strangers? Yes.

I love meeting Christians from other parts of the world. They are a delight. I love hearing how they live out their faith in their own cultures.

But in Heaven, that opportunity will be beyond incredible. I’ll have the chance to befriend believers from the past 20 centuries, and perhaps from the centuries to come. Language won’t be an obstacle anymore. I’ll learn insights about our shared faith that had never occurred to me before.  Everyone will be a minority.

There probably won’t be potlucks with exotic dishes.  But if there were I would definitely know that I was in Heaven.

Which brings us to another final matter.

I mentioned before that I can’t know which descriptions of Heaven and Hell are literal and which are figurative. I am convinced that we need to think bigger. I believe all those descriptions are given for our benefit, to give us just hint of what is there.

Yet instead of dwelling on those things that could easily be figurative [How big is my mansion? Will it have a bowling alley?] I’d rather focus on what I know I can take literally.

Heaven is a place of perfect peace where I get to live with God. I’ll be there with amazing people.

That’s all I really need to know. Until then, I’ll just enjoy the anticipation and wonder, and devote my life to showing my gratitude for God’s amazing generosity.

——————

Dave Soucie lives, serves and writes in Indianapolis.

Copyright © 2022 by Dave Soucie.  All rights reserved [but permission is granted for non-commercial use only, with proper citation].

God, Why Don’t You Love Me?

Gazing out the window, looking for escape, the weary soul yearns for rest. There was a time when everything seemed so promising. But now, after too many miles, one begins to wonder whether it was all a lie.

Family pressures. Juggling bills. Unfulfilling jobs. Household obligations that never let up. At this point life was supposed to have eased up. It didn’t.

Somehow, from somewhere, a voice from the past whispers. “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths.”

What? The Lord doesn’t seem like he’s doing anything. I need a superhero who will come to my rescue and solve everything for me. I’m still waiting. I also don’t see any green pastures or quiet waters. I’m stuck at a dead end with no way out.

Refresh my soul? Seriously? This may be true for some, but not for me. God, why don’t you love me?

Silence.

The whisper returns. “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Wait, I thought it was “If I go”, not “Even though I” go. This is normal? Aren’t you supposed to protect me from the valley, keeping me from harm’s way? Sounds like I have to go through the valley no matter what.

But then so did mom, and my brother. In fact, it seems everyone in our family had some sort of heartbreak. So have my friends.

The troubles of so many people come to mind, one after another. Some were crushed. Some seem to manage it okay. Some even thrived, especially those whose heartache I didn’t know about until much later.

A memory of a distant conversation begins to form. “God never said life would be simple, or easy, or fair. He did say he would always love us, and care for us, and offer to walk with us.”

The view out the window had not changed, but the desperation to escape seems less urgent.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

It’s all starting to come back now.

If God prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies, I guess that means he’s showing them he cares for me. I guess it also means it’s normal to have people against you.

God has promised to anoint, show his blessings, on his people. I suppose he does that even when I don’t feel blessed.

The only thing I feel is overflowing are all the expectations everyone has on my dwindling time and energy. But then God has been good to me, intangibles that aren’t always obvious, affirmations that tend to be overshadowed by the tyranny of the immediate.

“Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Silence.

Goodness. Love.

Silence.

Okay, I have felt that. Caught a whiff of it again yesterday. Sometimes it’s just hard to remember. It’s not easy to hang on to those moments when demanding ugliness comes crashing into my life.

But his rod and his staff have comforted me and protected me, since I know how things could have turned out far worse.

And dwell in his house forever.

Silence.

I’ve already started forever. I’m in his house right now.

Maybe I need to slow down, and look around.

He is with me. Throughout the challenges, despite the harshness I feel from others, no matter what unwelcome crisis arrives tomorrow, he is with me.

You do love me. I am blessed. I will make it.

[Psalm 23: A psalm of David.  NIV]

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Dave Soucie lives, serves and writes in Indianapolis.

Copyright © 2022 by Dave Soucie.  All rights reserved [but permission is granted for non-commercial use only, with proper citation].

Late To The Party

Is it still fashionable to be late to the party?

My awareness of what is and is not fashionable is rather skimpy, as my family and friends would attest. But I think I remember that those who wanted to enhance their image of being cool, would make a point to show up late.

Or maybe they’re just disorganized. Perhaps they have too much going on. It could be that they need to pay better attention.

Jesus talked about being late. Not for an office meeting. Not for a ball game. Not for a medical appointment.

Jesus talked about being late for a party.

In the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) the younger son doesn’t realize his huge mistake until he’s in the pigsty feeding the classic example of what he’s supposed to avoid. He headed home to apologize to dad, ask for forgiveness, and request to be a lowly servant. Dad fully embraced him back into the family.

As affirming as this is, I’m also interested in the reaction of his older brother. He’s the one who never left home, never abandoned his duties, never blew his inheritance on … well … wild living. He’s not so sure the little pipsqueak should be welcomed back with such fanfare when he himself had been so loyal.

Dad told him to get his priorities straight, and be glad his little brother wised up. That’s where Jesus ends the story, and we never learn if the older brother changed his attitude.  There’s another angle on the older brother, but I’ll leave it there for now.

Among other things, the story is about welcoming those who are late for the party. The father (God) is just glad his son (us) came home. It’s also about how resentment can poison a soul.

Jesus tells another story about some laborers who are hired to work in a vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16). The ones who started later in the day got paid just as much as those who started at dawn. That really ticked off the ones who worked all day long. The owner of the vineyard reminded them that they got paid what they had been promised, and not to whine if he chose to be generous with the latecomers.

In other words, although not as productive, it was okay for them to be late for the party.

When we look at the life of the Apostle Paul, he’s a real life example of someone who was late for the party (Acts 9). Some in the first century church were skeptical of his motives, but he more than made up for it.

One time a man attending our church asked me if he could be baptized. He was 92, and said he thought he had waited long enough.  Ah, yes and yes, and how about tomorrow?

I know pastors who entered the ministry later in life, as a second career. What they lost in years of service they made up with “real world” experience and a higher credibility among some believers.

Is it okay to be late for the party? Absolutely. If someone comes to a saving faith later in life, they may have lost out on what they’ve missed, but they can compensate in ways others cannot.

While they might have made more mistakes, their gratitude can be far greater. (Luke 7:47)

Although they didn’t serve God early on, some are motivated to try to make up for missed opportunities (Acts 22:1-21).

The Father is thrilled with anyone who, at any time in their life, finds their way home to him. That’s especially true for those who wander far away (Matthew 18:10-14).

So, let’s be happy when anyone comes to the Father. All are welcome. All are needed. All are valued. All are loved.

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Dave Soucie lives, serves and writes in Indianapolis.

Copyright © 2022 by Dave Soucie.  All rights reserved [but permission is granted for non-commercial use only, with proper citation].