I’ve always loved the parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke 15.
For 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!
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?
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.
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.”
With 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.
I 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.
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.
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.