The Lesson this week talks about the gospel turning people from “Slaves to into Heirs”. What a revolutionary idea! One thing is to set slaves into free people, like what Abraham Lincoln did on the Emancipation Proclamation. The gospel aspirations are much bigger than that. If we are led by God’s Spirit in Jesus, we go from slaves to sin to heirs of God’s kingdom.
That reminds me of the last words of Martin Luther King Jr on his Washington march’s speech: “free at last, free at last”. That was King’s dream. He wanted his fellow African Americans not to be just turned into freed slaves with no jobs or education. His dream for his people was much higher than that.
Unfortunately, we are very far from realizing this dream. 158 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and we still struggle as a country to treat everyone equally. Just the fact that we have the need for advocacy groups like “Black lives matter” is a clear indication that we don’t value all lives equally.
As we saidly follow the tragedy that took place on the Virginia protests, we realize we might be all free American citizens, but we are all very far from being heirs in God’s kingdom.
The memory text this week highlights one of the most corageous and radical ideas of the Bible. It says in Gal 3:28 that we are all the same before God. No race, no nationality, no gender, no social class, no sexual orientation, no income levels… nothing can make God love us more or less. For those of us (I’m including myself) first-world, white, educated, males… this is more than just freeing people to follow God! This is more than just “accepting” that they can worship God too. It is more than agreeing that they should be part of Gods family. It is about embracing them as fellow heirs in the kingdom. It is SHARING the inheritance of the Father.
The older brother in the prodigal son’s story faced the same challenge. He had to face the returning prodigal son. Not only that, but he had to digest the fact that the prodigal son received a very warm welcome by his Father. And that after having squandered all his Father’s money!
But wait, it doesn’t stop there. The older brother is asked not only to forgive his brother and be excited that he returned. He’s also asked to join on His Father’s welcome back party to the prodigal son. So the older brother needed not only to accept his lost brother back. He also needed to join the Fathers welcome back party with sincere joy. What a difficult task! That is impossible withou God’s Spirit living in us!
That is the vision Jesus preached in the prodigal son story. That’s the same image painted by Paul in Gal 3:28… and that’s the same invitation/calling/command God extends to us today. Only when we embrace that vision, by the grace of God, we’ll be free at last!