The church is currently without a pastor and has some issues that they will have to address in the interim period. Nevertheless, it was a fine congregation and they received me warmly. The text that I used is a story that is familiar to most people. It is from Luke, chapter 15. Here, Jesus is explaining what the kingdom of heaven is like. He uses three stories about things that are lost; a sheep, a coin, a son. I chose to focus on the third one...the son and the life that he chose to live.
Here is the story:
11Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. 12The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them.
13"Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17"When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.' 20So he got up and went to his father.
"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
22"But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. 24For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate.
25"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.'
28"The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!'
31" 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' "
I pointed out four things that strike me in this story.
The first is that when we chose to live a lifestyle that we know is wrong and hurtful to those that love us and hold us accountable, we often choose to distance ourselves from those people. We don't have to move to a far country to build barriers between ourselves and the people that are close to us. You can be married and still be distant from your spouse.
If half of all marriages in the US end in divorce, I wonder how many other couples are living in empty relationships with their spouses. How many husbands or wives are leading secret lives that their mates know nothing about? How many have hopes, desires, dreams and fears that they haven't shared because they are living in a "distant country?"
Parents and children can allow relationships to deteriorate to the point that they might as well be living in a distant country. They have no communication, no respect, no empathy.
If we choose to do things that our friends don't do (or won't do), we just find a new set of friends. After all, don't they have to accept that that's just who we are? Rather than listen to a friend or loved one tell us that we are messing up...we'll just move to a distant country.
The second thing is that there is a price to pay for sinful living. The son lost everything...not just his money, he lost his friends, his inheritance and his pride. He ended up feeding pigs and thinking of how good things were back in his father's house. And not about how good things were for him, but how good things were for his father's servants.
I know that there have been rebel children that later find that the one set of people that they can still count on are the parents that they once despised. I know that unfaithful spouses have sometimes realized that they have squandered their good marriages and chased after the shiny lure of an exciting affair. Sometimes we have no real choice but to look back and regret some of the choices that we have made.
Often we are willing to try everything that crosses our path to find purpose in life. Many "Christians" continue to search for meaning and pleasure in life and have turned away from the real joy that they once had in a growing relationship with God. How much are you willing to waste on prodigal living? And under what conditions are you willing to return home?
Thirdly, there is someone waiting for you to return. The father ran to greet his son. He cast aside his son's request to return as a servant and reinstated his position as son. He threw a party to celebrate the return of his son.
Lastly, the person that you feel that you have hurt the most is often the same person that wants to fully restore the relationship with you. The son expected nothing from the father. He came completely humbled. He had nothing to offer--no pride, no dignity, no self worth. He had lost everything. He was counting on his father's mercy to allow him to live as a servant.
Is there a relationship in your life that needs to be restored? I will tell you that the place to begin is by getting your relation right with God. If you have a troubled marriage, get your relationship right with God. Having problems with your teen, get right with God. Parents a drag, get right with God.
Here is the thing: You cannot be in a right relationship with God and be a bad husband. The nature of God won't allow it. You cannot be in a right relationship with God and be a lousy parent. The nature of your relationship with God won't allow it. You cannot be in a right relationship with God and be a rebellious child. The nature of your relationship with God won't allow it.
If your relationship is right with God, all of your other relationship will show it. You cannot be a bad employer, employee, spouse, parent, child or friend if your relationship is right with God. The very nature of God won't allow it.
I would challenge my readers to examine your relationships. If there are defects that need to be worked on, if there are apologies that need to be made, if there are broken relationships and broken hearts that need mending--first, spend some time with God. If you will work on following His Word, His Way, His Son--all of those other relationships will begin to get better. You'll still need to make your apologies and reconciliations, but it is easier when you walk with God. He is longing for your return and if you will repent (turn back) from your own way, He will run to greet you!
- Luke 15:21 Some early manuscripts son. Make me like one of your hired men.