The Safe Haven: A Place to Come Home

safehavenI had an epiphany last week. Though I must admit the circumstances are kind of embarrassing.

Embarrassing only because my brilliant burst of insight came as I was speaking at The Safe Haven. (Kind of like when years ago I asked my senior pastor why he was listening to a tape of one of his own messages. To which he replied, “I’m getting blessed.”)

Well, believe it or not, as I was in the midst of listening to myself even as I was giving the message, I got blessed. I received an epiphany.

We were explaining exactly what Jesus meant when He said in the Sermon on the Mount, 

But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! (Matthew 5:20 NLT)

Strong words that demand an explanation. (In case you’re curious, you can listen to the entire explanation by clicking on this PODCAST LINK.)

Naturally, Jesus presupposed that His listeners knew all too well what He meant by “the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees,” while we might not.

So, as I love to do (as you well-know if you ever listen to the podcast), I let Jesus explain His own reference in His own words. Turns out, He told a trilogy of stories in order to leave absolutely no ambiguity about who and what these “teachers of religious law and the Pharisees” were and are. (Cuz truth be told, Pharisees are not limited to the Jewish tradition of Jesus’ day; we have plenty of modern-day Pharisees haunting the hallowed halls of our churches in our day. But I digress.)

The third of this trio of stories that Jesus told — directed squarely at the Pharisees each — is the most familiar of the three. We typically refer to this story — inaccurately so — as the Parable of the Prodigal Son. But it’s not a story about the prodigal son at all. Oh sure, the prodigal son (the younger son, the one who represents so many of us in this tale of two sons) is featured quite prominently in the story. But the younger son is not the focus of the portrait that Jesus so eloquently paints. The younger son is the frame of the portrait; the focus of the portrait is the older son — the son who represents the “teachers of religious law and the Pharisees.” I know this because if you read the opening verses of Luke 15, wherein this story appears, you see quite clearly that Jesus told these stories to the Pharisees about the Pharisees.

Long story short, the younger son squanders his still-living father’s estate as he defiantly descends into the netherworld of lascivious living, heaping scorn and sorrow upon his family in the process.

The dad in the story never gives up on his son, even as it seems the son has forsaken his family forever. Dad’s out on the front porch, scanning the horizon in the hopes that one day, maybe, perhaps, his son will come home.

And come home he does.

Broken, repentant, sorrowful — his son just wants to come home.

homeAnd dad (the God-like-figure in the story) welcomes him home with open arms, a bear hug, a lavish display of gifts, and nary a word of rebuke. He pulls out all the stops and commences to throw his now-returned son one wingding of a party.

Which is where the rendering of this story usually stops, #MissingTheWholePoint!

Dad’s acceptance of the younger son causes the older son — the Pharisee-like-figure in the story, as in the people to whom Jesus told this story — to blow a gasket. He judges the younger son. He condemns the younger son. He compares his righteousness — his self-righteousness — to the younger son’s sinfulness. 

And that’s the point of the story.

And that’s the same point Jesus made in the Sermon on the Mount.

The “righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of religious law” was a self-righteousness, a self-righteousness that Jesus abhors.

You see, fact of the matter is, repentant people just want to come home. God will ALWAYS welcome them home. 

You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God (Psalm 51:17 NLT).

But many so-called “Christians” will.

Which goes to the heart of the story, and the heart of the Sermon on the Mount.

While self-righteous, Pharisee-like, judgmental church-goers live to wag an accusing finger at and spout out verses to those of us who are acutely aware of our imperfections, thereby making us feel so worthless, so beaten down, so spiritually exasperated, so religiously-wounded, so unaccepted and unacceptable…

…God constantly scans the horizon ALWAYS at the ready to give us the warm and sustained embrace of His acceptance, and a heartfelt “Welcome home,” to each of us who just want to come home.

You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God (Psalm 51:17 NLT).

Which leads me to my epiphany: That’s exactly why we started The Safe Haven. 

The Safe Haven is an older-son, Pharisee-free zone where anyone can come at any time. People just like us who are acutely aware of our imperfections, who are broken and repentant, who just want to come home. Home to God. Home to His loving embrace. Home to His never-condemning, always-welcoming, unconditional acceptance. 

A place where people can come home no matter how distant they have traveled, how far they have fallen, or how epically they think they have failed. A family of the flawed. A place where anybody can come home anytime, from anywhere — NO QUESTIONS ASKED!

People ask me weekly, what is this Safe Haven thing you’ve started. And now, thanks to my mid-sermon epiphany, I finally know how to answer them.

The Safe Haven: A Place to Come Home.

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2 thoughts on “The Safe Haven: A Place to Come Home

  1. D Knox

    Your words drive home how far we have moved away from the Acts 2 church. Accepting that we all fall short of the glory of God yet He still seeks us and desires our worship.

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