How The Prodigal Son Should Have Ended

I’ve always loved the parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15.

prodigal-sonFor most of my Christian walk, I’ve completely identified with the younger brother.  Drawn to what the world had to offer, in defiance of the Father’s will, defeated by the world, humbled and fearful of the Father’s wrath, hanging my head as I vied for a servant’s position in the household, then overcome by His unexpected grace and mercy, and ultimately fully aware of and troubled by the older brother’s lack of compassion and understanding.

But over the past few years, God has led me through some intense healing and deliverance.  The theme of this recent season has been learning what it means to be a true son of God.  I’ve learned a lot about my identity in the Kingdom and that has changed everything.  It’s changed how I relate to God.  For the first time ever, I began experiencing Him as a father.  And I found out that He is a really really good father!  It’s changed how I view the Kingdom of Heaven.  For the first time ever, I don’t see it as some far off land that I may get to be a part of one day.  Instead, I realize that it is at hand.  I am already a part of it and I am an Ambassador of Heaven living in a foreign land.  I represent the culture of Heaven here on earth and it’s my privilege to spread that culture.  It’s changed how I feel about myself.  For the first time ever, I feel like ALL of the promises in the Word are for me.  All that He has really is mine!

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And for the first time ever, I realize that in this season of my life, I actually now more closely resemble the older brother in the parable.  I know my place in the family now and I’m busy serving my God as a true son.  And, I have very little desire for the things of the world when compared with the things of God. 

So now, I have a decision to make.  Will I behave just like the older brother in the parable, or will I rewrite this story?

Option One: The Original Story

I’m serving my Father in His house, tending to my own inheritance all the while there are prodigal sons and daughters living out beyond the reach of the family.  My Father watches at the window waiting for them to return, desperate to get to them before anyone else in the household does.  Who knows what they might do to them?  The disgrace they’ve brought the family is reason enough to rough them up and send them packing. 

But, that’s not my Father’s heart.  He weeps for them.  He watches for them.  He longs for them.  He’s come to me and to others several times entreating us to go look for them and bring them home.

But who has time for that?

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The Prodigal Son Driven Out

Give it up Father!  Just forget about them if they don’t want to be a part of this family.  Look around at how well things are going here!  Everyone’s happy.  Everyone’s needs are met.  We’re working together to build and expand your household.  We’re getting stronger.  We’re getting fatter.  We’re getting richer.  Our enemies come to try to rob us and we easily send them packing.  We’ve got it made in the shade.  Who needs all those dirty, stinky, needy prodigals coming in here and screwing up what we’ve worked so hard to build?     

One of them came back the other day.  And Father actually threw him a party.  He gave him fine clothes and gifts!  Can you imagine?  Father is acting just like these prodigals: hasty, irrational, extravagant, and indulgent.  It was so wasteful.  All that I’ve worked so hard for was just given to this scoundrel.  I had to say something.  Father made a big point of telling me that this prodigal wasn’t just His son, but that he was my brother.  Well, Father can go on thinking that if He wants, but that wretch is no brother of mine.  Let him prove himself first.  Maybe then I’ll accept him.painting1

Uggh!  Now that I’m the older brother, I just hate this part of the story.  I want to rewrite it.  I believe the whole reason Jesus told this story is so that we would rewrite it!

Option Two: An Alternate Ending (How it Should Have Ended…And Still Can)

So many of my brothers and sisters have left and are living out lives they were never designed to live.  My Father’s heart breaks for them.  He paces before the window every day, watching and praying for their safe return.  I can’t bear seeing my Father like this.  I can’t bear the thought of what my brothers and sisters might be going through.  They are living without the protection and provision I enjoy as a son of this household.  They are living without the Father’s love and blessing and guidance. 

There’s so much to do here, but I can’t get them off my mind.  My Father loves them as much as He loves me.  And I love my Father.  So when my Father’s heart breaks, so does mine.

So, I went to my Father one day and I said, “Father, send me out to find these lost sons and daughters of yours.  Give me authority to tell them how you really feel about them.  Give me provision to journey to the ends of the earth to find them!  Give me authority to bring them home to you.” 

tumblr_li7zmaRFW71qhmhdfo1_500With joy, He gave me everything I asked for and sent me out to find them.  In ways, it was tough to leave the safety of the household and venture out to where I might be mocked or abused or even killed.  But I knew that I had the support of my entire family behind me.  So I mustered up all the courage I had and decided to care more about my lost brothers and sisters than I did for myself and my own needs and safety. 

And when I found one of my brothers face-down in the muck of a pig pen, it made it all worth it.  He was dirty and stinky and half starved to death.  I ran to him and got right down in the pig poop with him.  I got filthy dirty, but I didn’t care.  I took no thought of what people might think when they saw me covered in muck.  All I was thinking about was rescuing my brother. 

My brother was beyond surprised to see me.  He couldn’t believe that I had actually left home for the sole purpose of finding him.  He thought the family had written him off.  He thought Father hated him.  He thought he was too dirty to be accepted. 

mudkids-1I brushed the mud off of his face.  “There you are,” I said.  I told him he was my brother and I loved him no matter what he had done.  I told him all about how the Father wept for him and longed for him.  I told him, “This isn’t who you are.  This pig pen doesn’t define you.  You’re a member of a wealthy and royal family.  Come home, brother.  Father and I love you!” 

I helped him to his feet and together we headed home.  All the while, he hung his head and kept rehearsing his apology.  He kept asking me if I was sure he would be welcome.  I reassured him over and over again that no one would turn him away. 

 When we drew near to the house, he grew increasingly nervous and considered turning back several times.  “Don’t,” I pleaded.  “Just wait until you see!  Everyone will be overjoyed to see you!  I guarantee you Father will be head over heels for you!” 

Finally, we reached the edge of the property and here came Father, running out of the house and down the hill toward him!  Father’s arms were wide open.  There was a huge smile on His face and tears in His eyes.  My brother just dropped to his knees and hung his head. murillo

But just then, something miraculous happened.  Every member of the family who had heard what was happening immediately left their work in the fields and joined the Father in running down the hill to greet our brother who had returned.  It was amazing to see my family with one heart and one purpose following in the footsteps of our great Father. 

The party started right then and there as the Father and everyone after Him hugged and fawned over my brother.  We all helped him into his new clothes and we reminded him over and over again the he was a true son of this family.  We fed him and helped him heal.  We held his hand and loved him.  We never treated him any differently. 


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And he grew strong and confident.  And now, whenever he and I hear of another lost son or daughter, we go out together after him or her.  And we as a family celebrate over and over again, every time our brothers and sisters come home.  We’re constantly throwing parties.  And I love it!  I wouldn’t want to be a part of any other family.

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Which is more powerful: Courage or Compassion?

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I’d like to propose the idea that these two qualities are actually two sides of the same coin and are not fully operational separate from one another. Compassion without courage is completely ineffectual and courage without compassion is equally pointless and can sometimes even be cruel.

Allow me to explain.

What is True Compassion?

985b9e5017f743dfac13c55a2a9fd034Compassion literally means, “co-suffering.”  It’s way more involved than simply sympathizing with someone.  It’s even more involved than empathizing with them.  Compassion gives rise to an active desire to alleviate another person’s suffering.  It is love-in-action.  It’s a mother, who can’t swim and is deathly afraid of water, jumping into a deep pool to rescue her drowning baby.  This is the perfect love that scripture talks about.  It’s the love that casts out fear.  It doesn’t work without courage.  Without courage, compassion is nothing more than apathetic sympathy.  Without courage, compassion is just a weak fleeting emotion.  Without courage, the child drowns.  But with courage, compassion saves!

What is True Courage?

Courage without compassion is a bit tougher to explain. Courage is defined as the ability to do something that frightens you.  It’s the strength to act in the face of pain, fear, or grief.  Here are three scary scenarios to consider:

–          Skydiving. (Facing Fear)

–          Stealing a car. (Facing Fear minus Compassion)

–          Jumping into water to save a child even though you can’t swim. (Facing Fear plus Compassion)

All of these require acting in the face of fear; acting when there is the threat of pain or grief as a result.  But do all three of them qualify as true courage?

How-Scary-is-Skydiving1–          Facing Fear: There’s nothing wrong with skydiving.  If you’re into it, knock yourself out.  I don’t get it, personally, but I do recognize there are some inherent benefits from taking such a risk.  For instance, many people experience a deeper sense of self-realization which makes them braver in other areas of their life.  If I can survive jumping out of a plane, I can survive this board meeting.  But other than that, it doesn’t accomplish much.  Thus, I’m not sure I would go so far as to call it “true courage.”  I’m much more comfortable qualifying it as “nerve” or “grit” or “boldness.”

car-thief_0–          Facing Fear Minus Compassion:  Stealing a car also requires nerve.  However, I can’t get over the fact that an act like this more closely fits another definition.  “Cowardice” is defined as a trait wherein fear or excess self-concern override doing or saying what is right, good, and of help to others or oneself in a time of need.  Stealing a car may be scary, but it’s not right, it’s not good, and it doesn’t help others.  Acting in the face of fear can sometimes be attributed to an excessive self-concern.  When this is the case, it’s not courage.  In fact, it’s the total opposite of courage.  It’s full-on cowardice!

praying2–          Facing Fear Plus Compassion:  We’ve already established the power of these two working in tandem.  It’s the compassionate love the mother has for her child which would cause her to perform such a courageous act.  When jumping into the pool, she’s not thinking about the risk involved if she acts.  Rather, she’s thinking about the risk involved if she doesn’t act.  This is true courage.  True courage acts in the face of fear whenever there is something worthwhile at stake.  This is the type of courage that Jesus had when He faced the cross.  Another phrase for it is “sacrificial love,” the kind of love that lays down its life for the life of another.

Are you living a truly courageous life?  Is your cause worthwhile?  Is your cause worth dying for?  

Courage + Compassion = Salvation   

Courage plus compassion always compels us to do what is right even in the face of danger.  And it often leads to salvation!

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For example, I cannot get over the long series of compassionate courageous acts found in Exodus chapters 1 and 2.

Pharaoh ordered the killing of the boy children of the Israelites because he feared they would grow up to be warriors who would oppose him.  He feared their courage minus compassion. But it turns out that it was courageous feminine compassion which posed the real threat to him not masculine might.  In those first two chapters, we see compassionate act after compassionate act performed by women which ultimately lead to the rise of the deliverer and the abolition of the Hebrew slaves.  Their acts ultimately led to salvation.

Read it for yourself.  Here are just some highlights.

Acts of Courageous Feminine Compassion in Exodus 1 and 2:

1.  The midwives refuse to kill the boy children, a direct defiance of Pharaoh’s orders. They basically were willing to die so that these babies could live.

2.  To cover for why they didn’t kill the babies, the midwives boldly tell the Pharaoh that Hebrew women are just tougher than Egyptian women and they have the babies before a midwife can get there. (Can you imagine telling a king that the women of his race just aren’t as tough as the women he held as slaves? And God blessed the midwives for it by giving them families.)

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3.  Moses’s mother puts her baby in a basket. This may at first glance seem heartless, but, upon closer examination, is actually very compassionate. How hard it must’ve been to part with your baby in the hopes that he may have a slim chance to live.  This was a self-sacrifice.

4.  Moses’s sister bravely follows Moses’s basket, wanting no harm to come to her little brother.

5.  Pharaoh’s daughter keeps baby Moses even though she knows she is directly disobeying her father’s orders. Because, that’s just what we women do. We see a stray, we bring it home. We see a baby in a basket, we bring it home. Compassion. We’d rather ask our father or our husband for forgiveness than ask them for permission when someone or something helpless is involved.c000501a7c43f8aa04b950d6985454927788ef8b8daaee3609f995be73b73d7f

6.  Moses’s sister boldly talks to Pharaoh’s daughter about finding a Hebrew nursemaid for the baby. This would’ve taken considerable bravery since, she would’ve had to reveal that she was hiding in the reeds watching this whole thing take place (Pharaoh’s daughter had been BATHING in the river when she found Moses…can you say “creeper”?).  Furthermore, she was a slave who had no right to address the Pharaoh’s daughter.

7.  Moses’s mother agrees to nurse Moses (and now gets paid to do so-paid to nurse her own child) knowing that she can’t tell him the truth and she will have to hand him over to another woman to be his mother. At that point, I think I would have taken my baby and my money and gotten out of dodge. But Moses’s mother knows he will have a much better life in Pharaoh’s courts than he will in the slave pits. So, she sacrifices a relationship with him so that he can have a better life.

Of course, we know the end of the story.  Moses grows up and, after facing many of his own fears, he acts with courageous compassion to liberate the people of God.

Compassion-Share-ItI don’t know about you, but that just stirs me up!  If you’re like me and you have a heart for evangelism, a heart to see the lost and broken be ransomed and redeemed, I urge you to work hard to develop courageous compassion.  Jesus exemplified it, and so can you!  His courageous compassion is what brought salvation to the world.  Your courageous compassion is what will bring people to Jesus so that they can experience that same salvation.  It’s time to rise and shine His perfect love.

What are you waiting for?  Go love like crazy!