Did you ever have one of those times when you awaken out of a sound sleep with a thought or thoughts running through your mind so loudly that you cannot go back to sleep, no matter what?
I had one of those times this morning. AT 4:30AM. UGH. I tried to go back to sleep, but I couldn’t.
I turned to Luke 15 in my Bible. If you’re from churchland, you know this section of scripture. It’s about the prodigal son. The grace exhibited by the father is humbling to anyone who has walked away from church for any reason. It may be one of the most popular topics on which to preach…and by far, the simplest.
I think that preaching on the prodigal son is a cop out. Before you stone me, let me explain.
It is really easy to put the responsibility on people who leave the church on those people. I understand the idea that if someone wants to leave, let them leave. If they return, they’ll appreciate being back. If they don’t return, it’s probably better for everyone involved. I get that, and at one time, I was completely of that mentality.
HOWEVER…what happened to the two parables BEFORE the parable of the prodigal son? In the parable of the lost sheep (the first in the series) the shepherd leaves 99 sheep to go after one sheep. In church terms, the pastor walks away from 99% of his people to go after 1%. Logically, this doesn’t make any sense. It’s a huge risk. What if the other sheep wander off? What if a pack of wolves come and eat some of the sheep? What if the 99 sheep function just fine without the shepherd? (Oops…did I just type that?)
How about the parable of the lost coin? The woman has a total of 10 coins and loses one. This woman goes CRAZY, turning her house upside looking for one coin. She went WAY out of her way to look for that one coin. She had 90% of the coins. Wasn’t she overreacting? (Please don’t get all spiritual, proving how much greek you know by telling me that this coin was her dowry…I know that already.)
Here is my question. Why is it that so many people gloss over the TWO PARABLES IN WHICH JESUS DESCRIBES SOMEONE GOING AFTER SOMETHING SOMEONE OF VALUE?
I understand that in any group of people that there will be attrition. It is basic group dynamic that some people won’t like what is being preached, what is being sung. Something will always be wrong. There are some people who will leave the church with their inheritance to go out and live la vida loca, but there are some people who leave the church, hurt and disillusioned and, instead of discerning that these people need to be reached, to be contacted, they are labeled prodigals.
I will never hear the parable of the prodigal the same again. And I will never see someone who leaves the flock–be it in church, in a group of friends, in a work environment–the same again.