How often have we read through the story of the prodigal son? It’s captured in song and in story book. For those of us who have grown up in church, we could probably recite it and have heard sermons on all different aspects.
I can’t help but feel that sometimes, though, we disconnect from it. We miss the heart of God as shown in this story. We forget that the heart of God is a heart we, ourselves, are supposed to emulate.
We get too busy preaching at the prodigals or the older sons. We use it as a preventative measure- “see, if you run off on God, thinking you know better, you will have no friends, no food and will have to come back and God is just so good, He will take you back.”
We act like some uninvolved third party to this whole story.
When someone ‘backslides’ (as we say in Christianese), we can get this holier than thou attitude of, “Go for it. Some day, when you are eating rotting pig food, you’ll get it and I hope you come back. I’ll be waiting here when you do.”
Or we turn around and tell Christians not to be like that older brother. We should be happy when drug addicts come back home or when porn addicts find grace. We should be thrilled. Those who grew up with a Bible in their mouths should delight in knowing that the Kingdom is growing.
But the story of the prodigal son is not about who we shouldn’t be.
It’s about who we should be. It is about who we are supposed to be. We are supposed to be like Christ, not just an optimistic older brother. Our hearts are supposed to mirror the heart of God.
So, when the father is standing on the road, pleading for the lost to come home- that’s what we’re supposed to be doing. We are supposed to be crying out for prodigals, because we used to be prodigals. We are supposed to be standing, arms open wide, as an image of the love and grace of Christ.
As a whole, the body of Christ is not doing that. This is why sin is so alienating within the church. We emphasize God’s grace to evangelize the lost. We tell them that no matter where they have been, they can come to God. No matter what they have done, God loves them.
Here’s the thing, though, the prodigal son in the story is just that- a prodigal son. He knew his father’s love, mercy, and provision. He left that for a life on his own. The prodigal son most closely resembles those the church is too quick to write off- the Christians who have tarnished their faith.
Our hearts should break for prodigals. Our hearts should break for our brothers and sisters in Christ who walked away from the safe harbor of His grace and now find themselves eating scraps. We should be standing in the street, crying out for them, waiting for them, begging for them to come home. That is the heart of Christ.
We should be going out and finding them, reminding them of the love and mercy of their Father. We should be joyfully anticipating porn addicts and adulterers and drug addicts coming home. We should be waiting for them!
We cry out for prodigals, because we were once prodigals.