We all know the parable of the Prodigal Son. The younger of two sons demanded his inheritance while his father was still alive and went to a foreign land, where he squandered it. In his dissolute living he finally realized the foolishness of his actions and how he was wasting his life. Luke 15:17 tells us that when he finally “came to his senses,” that was the point where he decided to humble himself and return home to ask forgiveness of his father.
Many of us see ourselves in this parable or we know someone who fits this description. This is the person who may never have known God or perhaps did and walked away from the faith for some reason. Many folks like this spend years wandering in darkness, imbibing sexual appetites, doing drugs or drinking excessively, perhaps engaging in occult practices that are anti-God and demonic.
Often, it is because of the prayers of a few who have never given up on this prodigal that he reaches certain depths in the depravity of his lifestyle that he comes to his senses. A well-publicized example of this is with Brooklyn Tabernacle (New York City) Pastor Jim Cymbala’s daughter, Chrissy. Chrissy has written a book called The Girl in the Song (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PCK25LA) that describes all that happened to her. Here is an excerpt from the Amazon book description:
Chrissy grew up surrounded by the beauty of love and the ugliness of pain. The daughter of a pastor whose church was located in a rough-and-tumble area of Brooklyn, she witnessed the ravaging effects of the streets on the lives of the most desperate—drug addicts, derelicts, and other destitute people. Yet her own home was a haven of warmth, filled with affection and love.
Then something happened that tore her away from it. With the flip of a switch, Chrissy fell deeper and deeper into deception where haunting images and songs pointed to one thing—perfection. Longing to be the girl in the song, she became entangled in an obsessive relationship. Before long, secret after secret led her down the path to becoming someone she didn’t even recognize.
Prodigals; they happen despite intense faith and serious devotion to God in a family. In these situations, there can come a “But God…” moment. As with Chrissy, the prodigal reaches the end of herself, and God touches her, bringing her to her senses so that she might return to the Father.
In some families there is the faithful son or daughter who didn’t go down this destructive path. As in the parable, we can imagine there might be some resentment at the returning brother or sister. Here this child remained, stayed obedient, and who is it that is feted? The one who lived a dissolute lifestyle. It could certainly cause such a sibling to question why he or she bothered. Much like the brother in the parable.
Are there not many who have been raised in the church and remained home and faithful, never straying by engaging in illicit sex or partying to an extreme? They’ve always been the good child who never gave anyone cause for concern. These are the ones who are often the pillars of a church. They’ve been there through thick and thin and are noted as such.
Have any of these ever felt like the son who stayed at home? Particularly in churches that reach out and welcome “sinners” into the congregations, how might the loyal, non-troublesome, members feel? Often the troubled ones who become part of a church require extra attention because of their ignorance of Godly ways and immaturity in the faith. They may be like many in the Corinthian church that Paul had to rebuke and discipline in order to get them on the right track.
The “older sons” who have stayed devoted and unwavering may harbor thoughts such as those expressed in the parable in Luke 15:30:
“But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!”
Is it possible for them to feel resentment and complain to the Father, “When this son of yours came, look how well you treated him. Why him and not me? Why don’t I get the fatted calf?”
It would be understandable for someone left home and obedient to cry out to God in this way. Yet, look at what the Father says to this dutiful son in Luke 15:31-32:
“Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”
The one who stayed home is every bit as loved. However, the love of the Father is so great, and He is so merciful, that He wants none to be lost and perish. We celebrate the lost souls who return home (or come home for the first time), but we shouldn’t forget to love on those who have always been there and consistently done the bidding of the Father. They should be reminded that they are as valuable as the Prodigal.