Please read Luke 15: 11 – 32
Many of us who are believers and Christians know this passage very well. It has taught us a great deal about love and forgiveness; especially the way God loves us. There are many lessons which we can gather from this one passage. I wish to share points of view from the eyes of the key players of the story:
The Prodigal – This son thought he knew everything about life. He wasn’t happy with what he had and wanted more. Never thinking that what he had was good enough, he went to his father and demanded his inheritance thinking it would help him to obtain his heart’s desire. Forsaking the wisdom the father taught him throughout the years by example and life-lessons, the Prodigal sets out for the fantasy dream of having things his way. No one could talk sense into him because he was determined to do things his way. He didn’t care about anyone but himself and he didn’t care who got hurt along the way of his desires; even when those desires would lead him down a very dangerous path.
The Other Son – This son was the faithful son who stayed in his father’s service and good graces. He understood the devotion of family and of being obedient. And although there is no indication how much time had lapsed from his brother’s departure and his return, the other son stayed and worked hard. His devotion to his father proves his love for him. He did get upset with his father when his brother returned and was restored to the “family” and thought that since the Prodigal wasted his inheritance, he shouldn’t be able to have the fatted calf, the party and so on. And to be truthful, the other son had a good reason for feeling this way.
The Father – Here is a man of great love for his family. He wanted to provide for the family and to assure them success in life. When the Prodigal asked for his inheritance and went off, I can just see the father’s heart break and burn with pain at the Prodigal’s choices. The father knew full well that the Prodigal was making a HUGE mistake, yet also knew that he had no way of stopping him from going. Even if he denied him the inheritance, he still would have gone. So the father did what he could to give him a fighting chance to succeed. And as the Prodigal walked away, the grief and pain of the father increased with each step. Worry, sorrow, bewilderment and great anguish filled the father’s heart. He waited and watched for the Prodigal’s return; not to say “I told you so” but to once again to say how deeply he loved him.
Every one of us knows a prodigal: the child who thinks they have all the answers and chooses poorly, a spouse who is having an affair that thinks they deserve better than what they have, the parent who chooses their lover over their own children, an addict who puts their next high over everything else, the one who places work over their family just to get “things”, the one who wants fame and glory at any cost and will compromise their entire being for that fame, and the one who is forsaking their faith for the perishable. We know those Prodigals who feast on gossip and drama, power over others, and controlling others to feel important. What does each of these Prodigals have in common? Two things: selfishness and lack of compassion for who their actions affect.
Being the father (or mother/sibling/spouse/child), we know what they are doing is wrong, will lead to devastation, and will affect more people than the Prodigal ever imagined! We try to talk reason to them, but it falls on deaf ears. We know that, like the passage provided, it will only be a bad experience for the Prodigal. And at the same time, the father has many of “The Other Son” who will tell the father (etc…) why they shouldn’t give the Prodigal the time of day, let alone a second chance. But in the end, it was the Father’s terms in which the Prodigal was restored; not the Other Son’s terms.
What does this say to us today? That depends… are you the Father, the Prodigal, or the Other Son?
- The Prodigal – You can always come back and be restored into the family; but it’s not with the things which separated you from the family. You have to leave that behind and to seek real repentance (turning away from the things which separate you from the Father). Those things which led you away MUST be forsaken.
- The Other Son – Yes, you were faithful all these years and you honored the Father. Now, you must honor Him one more time and accept His decision to welcome the Prodigal back into the family without argument or reservations. The Father knows what He is doing and that His judgment is in returning His children into full family functions. Their past is their past; as long as they are truly repentant. Otherwise, the Father would have never taken them back in…
- The Father – Never stop looking, hoping or praying for your Prodigal. If they choose to leave, with a sad and broken heart, let them go. You can’t force your will on them, you can’t change them, and you can’t stop loving them. God loves us enough to allow us to go after things which we desire; even though He knows what destruction it will cause. That’s the cost of free will. And then we must allow them to face the consequences of their decisions: don’t swoop in to try and save the day because they will never be repentant, never learn from their mistakes and it will empower them to manipulate any circumstance in their favor. Wait patiently for them to come to you. God never leaves our side, we leave His.
A veteran read the above article and asked me to share how this might relate to veterans; and after speaking with him for a while, I was able to see what he was looking for. Using the same main characters from the passage, we will see how they really mirror today’s culture and values:
- The Prodigal – These are those who feel entitled to everything they want and yet are not willing to do anything to get it besides complain. These are the people who demand their freedoms and become inactive to maintain those freedoms and cast the burdens on the shoulders of others. They expect their “rights” over the rights of others and condemn those who oppose theirs. They view the military as heartless and unnecessary; spitting in the faces of our military in protest. They don’t care about anything except their agenda.
- The Other Son – This is our service personnel. These are the men and women who does what is needed to protect and honor those whom they love. No matter what the cause, they rise up and take care of business. They fight to the death for the rights of all. They hold freedom high and honor that freedom with their lives. It is because of these that we have the freedoms we have. Even if they are called time after time, they ready themselves to serve all; even the Prodigals.
- The Father – These are the veterans, the families, the friends and the people who needed the Other Son to rise up and take action, to defend them, and to protect them. These people support the efforts of our veterans and their families, who KNOW they deserve assistance in integration back into civilian life, and work hard in giving our veterans their every need. They have seen their faithfulness and devotion to God and country and try to give then what is due them. Just like the Father in the passage, the Father looked to the Other Son and said that all that was around him was his. Fathers always know the best for their children and when they are confronted by Prodigals; they may not agree with their intentions and motives, but they will give them what is due. If they refuse to forsake what divides them from the Father and return in their Father’s terms, they don’t get reinstated to what the Father had in store for them. The Other Sons never have to worry about this because the Father knows their faithfulness to the Father.
Our veterans need to know that their labors and sacrifices were given to a grateful nation. They need to know that as they come back broken and disabled that their nation and loved one will be there for them. They have served with honor and dignity. We, as a nation should now return it back to them.