When a child takes its first steps, those watching get pretty excited. Some probably applaud and cheer and then flood the Internet with play-by-play videos of the steps. We celebrate the child’s achievement because we know, where walking can take them. Often during these early stages the child will fall and maybe even start to crawl again because it is easier and is something they are use to doing. When they do fall what is our response as a family member, a friend, or a causal observer watching the video on some social media tool such as FACEBOOK or snapchat? Do we chastise the child? Do we scold them and then walk away because they have reverted to their old ways or do we help them back on their feet while offering encouraging words and support?
In the 15th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus shares several parables about forgiveness, joy and celebration. The parable of the Lost or Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31) is one that most of us bring to mind. Many have probably heard sermons that focus on one of the main characters and their reaction to the younger son. The characters include the Father of the two sons, the son who wanted his inheritance, and the other son who seemed disappointed at his father’s reaction. Also in the story, and less spoken about are those who partied and helped the younger son spend his inheritance. There are the family friends who may have been with the father when the son returned or were invited to the celebration party and there were the casual observers, such as the servants who watched this drama play. The youngest son was definably no baby but was taking some baby steps to reconcile with His father and the people observing had some very different reactions to his attempt.
Those in a relationship know that an argument is inevitable regardless of the couple involved. If, after the couple’s first argument one decides to walk away from the relationship, what response would you expect from the other partner? As a friend, what would be our response? As their next-door neighbour who barely knows them, how do we respond? If we have a neighbour with a noisy car who has started it up at 5:00 AM introducing their noisy car to those still in bed, how do we respond as a friend, possible family member, or as a causal neighbour? Would it make a difference if we knew their early start was because they had a child who had to be at a 6:00 AM Chemotherapy appointment or that they were going on a Timmies coffee run? And when the early morning noise stops because the child no longer requires treatment, do we celebrate with them or ignore the situation or go away and mope about those mornings we were woken?
There are many around us taking baby steps everyday and we often don’t even notice something is happening. Sometimes it’s because we have seen this person take those same steps many times before only to fall and go back to their old ways. Sometimes we are blinded to whatever is happening because our own concerns get in the way. Sometimes we don’t notice because we don’t care. How we respond to the world around us can influence our relationship with Christ. If we chose to ignore the good and bad that is happening around us and only focus on our own lives, we will become sad lonely people. If we choose to see the fault in those trying to move forward, our bitterness and resentment will destroy us. If we cannot see the need to connect with others and struggle alone, we will not realize the hope Jesus offers.
We would like to challenge you to examine how you respond to those around you. Would you re-read the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31) and see if you can identify with one of the characters based on how you respond to life. Meditate on the passages and then take a closer look at the different characters. Keep in mind your response to the baby steps others take, see if you can see yourself or others in Jesus’ story. Consider how you respond to other’s attempts at achievement. Consider how you respond to the neighbour who is undergoing anger management treatment again; the same person who you have heard scream obscenities at his wife time and time again. The same neighbour who seems broken because of his behaviour and says he wants nothing more than to love his wife, as he knows he should. Consider how you respond to those who want to change for the better. If you are convicted because of your response, pray asking to be transformed. Pray God opens your eyes to the world around you especially those needing that hand up as they take some big baby steps. Pray the Holy Spirit guides you to express holy love even for those you do not know. Pray for discernment to guide your response to the struggles and success of your family, neighbours, colleagues and even the strangers. Pray you can be an encourager who wants to celebrate life with others. Pray you can respond as Christ expects.