Luke 15:11. “There was a man who had two sons.”
There’s a swell of prayer rising to call the prodigals home. As parents, spouses and friends we grieve over prodigals who do life the hard way, estranged from the God Who loves them, and as members of the Body, without them, we find we limp. On their behalf, we pray through Jesus’ story in Luke 15, faith clinging to the revelation that God is a shockingly prodigious Father who lavishes restoration before there’s any evidence of changed behaviour!
In the story, there’s one obvious prodigal son, but he wasn’t alone. His older brother didn’t ever physically leave home, but his heart was a long way from his Father. His ego-centric worldview didn’t motivate him to move to a distant land to get what he wanted, rather he chose to blame others for not getting what he wanted. Being at home, close to his father wasn’t enough! While praying for the homecoming of the obvious prodigals, let’s not forget we all can be the older brother at times, when we fail to want God more than anything else. While we never lose our right to be called sons and daughters of God through our union with Christ, we all can lose the experiential knowledge of joy, peace, rest and fruitfulness when we cease to desire above all else, God Himself. Paradoxically, as leaders of churches and ministries, we can be especially susceptible to lose our First Love, even while we work for Him!
How can we take the lead in returning and in helping the Body of Christ also return?
The younger son’s homecoming journey began with a wake-up call. Luke 15:17 says, “When he came to his senses…” These awakening moments are not unlike arriving in an unfamiliar city and seeing a map with a big red dot and the words “You Are Here.” Simon Peter thought he knew his “red dot.” He was convinced he was ready to travel with Jesus both to prison and death. But Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me” (Luke 22:34). Peter’s competing desires meant he would actually travel in a very different direction to the one he professed. But isn’t it so comforting to watch this interaction? Jesus knew exactly where Simon Peter was, even if he didn’t know it himself. Jesus wanted Peter to know what He knew so that Peter could experience transformation in the very area that had the potential to cause his faith to fail. Later, after Jesus’ resurrection, we find Peter with Jesus eating breakfast by the lake and watch Jesus recommission him to lead many others in their own homecoming journeys to God.
Perhaps, like Simon Peter, we need another “but Jesus said” moment to wake us up to what our heart desires most of all. Remember, finding my spiritual “red dot” is only the first step on my homecoming journey. God’s grace awakens me to see things as God says they are. But God’s grace also reassures me there is forgiveness and a welcome in Father’s arms for His children. Grace daily energises this rhythm of turning and returning from our distant land of empty idols that can never satisfy, back home to close communion with Father God.
Today, wherever we find ourselves, Jesus is praying for us, that we will find our way home and we will bring many others back home with us! We get to go first.