I met with “A” tonight. I met with a different group the prior week, but I heard “A” in a shouting match with the COs last time. We talked about that for a bit. Sometimes I provide a safe space where men can let off steam without getting into trouble.
He’s been working on a praise song, and he taught me part of it tonight. It’s in the African-American style of call and response. The two of us tried it out and sang together. The song, much like our faith, is still a work in progress.
For our study tonight we looked at:
Matthew 21:28-32 (NKJV)
The Parable of the Two Sons
28 “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ 29 He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?”
They said to Him, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.
I gave him the context that Jesus was speaking to people who considered themselves righteous and had no need of the preaching of Jesus or John. They had questioned the authority of Jesus. And as part of the ongoing dialog Jesus tells this story.
We noticed that neither son was the “perfect” son. One talked back to his father, while the other gave lip-service but ultimately disobeyed.
An illustration we came up with was two addicts who go to Drug Court. The judge asked the first man if he would stay off drugs. The man says “no”, but never uses again. The second man says to the judge, “yes”, but goes back to using. Which man did what the judge wanted?
We looked further into the parable. Why did the first son refuse? Was he lazy? Was he already busy with other activities? Did he want to sit around and watch Oprah re-runs? Was he afraid that he wasn’t able to do what was asked of him? Was he more interested in seeing his girlfriend?
Why did he ultimately change his mind? “A” wondered if the son’s regret was because he realized how much his father loved him, and he regretted being disrespectful to his father.
We looked at the second son. “A” could relate to him as someone who could say all the right things and give the appearances of being the good son, but in fact was leading a double life. An example that “A” gave was that he would regularly stop by the church and give his 10% tithe on the money he made from selling drugs.
The second son may have been disobedient for the very same reasons the first son was unwilling to say “yes”, but he hard learned how to “shine people on” to make them believe he was the good son.
Jesus’ audience believed that only people who were good, nice, wealthy, and blessed got into Heaven. Yet Jesus said, “I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you.” Tax cheats and Hollywood Madams are more likely to be found in federal prison. God is calling out to the ones who don’t look good, and don’t seem like they have it all together. He is calling the rebellious and broken. The transforming love of the Father changes regret into obedience.