A Letter to the Elder Brother

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.” [Luke 15:28]

Dear Brother,

I remember it like it was just yesterday; the hurt look on your face when I told you I was leaving home. I remember the conversation we had. You tried to dissuade me from leaving. You thought I was making a bad choice. You feared for my life. You begged and pleaded with me not to leave. But I was obstinate. My mind was set. This place just wasn’t doing it for me anymore. I had a whole world awaiting me: territories to conquer, opportunities to grab, a life to live.

You see, when I asked for my share of the inheritance, it wasn’t so that I could squander it. I was going to invest it. At least that’s what I had planned. I had it all figured out and I was, indeed, wise in my own eyes. I had scouted the land and seen the numerous business ventures just waiting to be explored. Of course I knew our Father would not approve of some of these exploits, but I had a plan. I had an exit strategy for saving myself before getting in too deep. Somehow, I was going to make it all worth the inheritance. It would all work out for good in the end. Dad will not be disappointed. So, I left. Despite Father’s disapproval and your fervent dissuasion, I packed up my bags and left home.

You’ve heard the story. Somehow, time got out of my hands. Unfortunately, so did all my share of the inheritance. Before I knew it, I was eating with the pigs and regretting the day I was born. But even sadder than that, I regretted the day I left home. I just couldn’t imagine coming back here and not hearing the end of all your “I told you so’s.” So, I chose to stick it out a little bit longer. But the longer I stayed, the more I strayed. There was simply no hope for me out there. Too proud to ask for forgiveness and too desperate to stay away, I came up with an ingenious plan. I decided to come back and work for Father. I knew that I didn’t deserve to be taken back. There was no longer anything for me as a son. All my inheritance was squandered. So, I decided to come and work for my keep. No longer worthy to be called son, I applied to serve. I figured that what I could not do so well in the world, I could do better in my Father’s House.

But as it turns out, our Father could not hear of it. He didn’t even let me finish my apology and proposal. He said that He considered me His son and He welcomed me back to His House as such and nothing less. He said my debt was cancelled, He forgave it all. I recall how everyone celebrated with songs and dance. The meat was in plenty and the wine flowed abundantly.

Yet, even in the midst of the celebration, I couldn’t help but notice your absence, big brother. At the back of my mind, I knew that there were two people I needed to apologize to, our Father and you, dear Brother. I wanted to tell you how sorry I was for not listening to you. I wanted to apologize for shunning your warnings and advice, for thinking you were stupid for opting to stay in our Father’s House. You told me I was too wise in my own eyes, and I proved to be too wise to listen to you. There’s so much I wanted to tell you. So much I had learnt in my disobedience. But you were nowhere to be seen. You were not at the party.

When I asked our Father where you were, he told me that you were angry and would take no part in the celebration of my return. Father told me that you were bitter at how faithful you have been towards Him and yet you never received any of the attention that I was now getting. In your anger, brother, you sinned and refused to fellowship with your prodigal brother. You said that you had been hurt once, and would not risk it again. I was your brother, yes, but I was no longer worthy to be called your friend. Even though our Father had chosen to take me back with all fullness, you did not.

You stood afar, the memories of MY past too painful for YOU to forget. Yet, there’s so much I wanted to say to you, elder brother. Your dedication and commitment to our Father’s house is impressive, and quite encouraging to me. You have always remained faithful, even when I was enticed by the world outside. A large part of the reason I was reluctant to return was because I knew I had to face you – a person I had disappointed and hurt so much. Not once did it occur to me that I would be telling you the next words that I am going to say to you:

‘Dear elder brother. Father pleads with our proud, hardened and stubborn hearts. It is His kindness that led me to repentance. I knew that our Father was a good man. That He would be willing to take me back as a servant because I had seen how He treated His servants. But I had underestimated His kindness. He chose to forgive me of everything I had done. He forgave it all. He didn’t want me to perish. It is solely and entirely by His mercy and grace that I am back home and responding to the name, “Son.”

Please, dear brother, do not let me – your imperfect brother – keep you out of your Father’s House (church). You have been faithful for so long. Do not give up now. I want to learn how to become faithful like you but you, the only teacher I can trust, are nowhere to be found.

Do not give in to the devil’s trap of bitterness and blinded unforgiveness. Sin is crouching at your door, dear brother. It desires to have you, but you must master it. Do not end up like me. I was the prodigal who abandoned my Father’s house. But you, dear brother, are being the prodigal within the Father’s house. Your predicament is much more dangerous because it may go unnoticed both by yourself and those around you. You are in the House, but are not of the House. You are in this room but not in this Home. Please, dear brother, do not fall away. Our Father is pleading with you, and I am pleading for you.’

Please, dear elder brother, don’t leave home.

With Love, Younger Brother.
.

In His service and for His glory,

Cornell.

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