If you’ve listened to my story, I sometimes tell about the song that came on the radio right after I asked God to save my life. It was “When God Ran,” the Benny Hester version. It movingly takes the story of the prodigal son and personalizes it. Hearing that song just moments after surrendering my life to God was like a “welcome home” party for me.
For a few months now, I’ve been ostracized from one small branch on my family tree. It started as silly as this: a young member of our family posted a status update out of frustration at not being allowed to hang out with a friend who professes to be gay. Another family member, an adult, publicly chastised that family member in the comments area of the original post. Scriptures were used to back up this chastisement (albeit completely out of context). I was very annoyed by the way it all went down, because I cannot think of ANY POSSIBLE REASON for an adult to comment publicly on a child’s Facebook page, criticizing her for all her friends – and the world – to read. So… what did I do? Publicly and privately put in my own two cents. Perfect response, no? Of course not. But that’s what I did. When the mother of the adult I addressed was told about it, she and others in the family decided to stick up for the adult, rather than the child. I still fail to see the logic in that decision, but it is what it is.
The adult’s mother asked, “If someone were to tell your son he was wrong, how would YOU feel?”
Here’s how I feel about that question: If my son is wrong about something, it’s okay to tell him he is wrong. Coddling him provides no value. An incredibly important part of growing up comes from being corrected. Publicly admonishing him, however, would be different since he is a child. When he is an adult, I feel the rules will change – if he publicly humiliated another person, a public response would not be out of the question, and I would not hold onto offense.
Of course, I am open to the idea that I’m wrong about that.
But what I’d really like to say to this part of my family, which in subsequent conversations have let me know their opinions on how much God hates homosexuals, is that I’d love the opportunity to sit down and study the story of the prodigal son with them, as well as the story of his brother. It’s a beautiful story that was originally told by Jesus Himself:
The prodigal son left his father’s house to go out into the world and blow his inheritance. He was rebellious. He lived his life in a way that was a disgrace to the family name. He rolled in the mud with pigs, covered in crap. You couldn’t get much worse than this guy even if you tried. He hit rock bottom.
At that point he decided to try to head back to dad’s house, hoping for the life of a servant. He didn’t feel like he even deserved to be called a son anymore.
But what happened? His father welcomed him home, running to meet him. He had always been his father’s son. Nothing he did could ever change that. Dad threw one heckuva a party!
In the meantime, the prodigal’s brother was living in daddy’s house, feeling as if his good works entitled him to be called “son”. He couldn’t understand why there weren’t parties to celebrate his “goodness”. He found it very unfair that his poop covered brother, the one who had been such a disgrace and done so many bad things, was being made such a fuss about.
I once read a book that said something like, “One brother thought his sins prevented him from being called ‘son’ and separated him from his father’s love, while the other thought his good deeds entitled him to be called ‘son’ and justified his father’s love. Both were wrong. The father’s love just… IS.”
And you know, family and friends, that is very true. The father’s love is just… there. For everyone. It doesn’t have to be earned. Doing the “right” things doesn’t get it for you. Doing the “wrong” things doesn’t disqualify you from it.
I am a prodigal. And, while they may not realize it, I am quite aware of the things that were said about me when I was out living with the pigs by those same family members who ripped a teen for being unable to understand why she couldn’t associate with a gay friend… a friend who, just a few short years ago, lived as if she were part of the family. Circumstances and life choices have now excluded her, and how dare anyone go against that exclusion decision! Guess what? EXCLUSION NEVER WORKS. Did you get that? Read it again. Exclusion. does. not. work. It just causes bitterness to build. I realize this pattern of exclusion has been going on for quite some time, and I’ve personally experienced it too, but that cycle CAN be broken. It NEEDS to be broken. It is, in fact, keeping you from enjoying one raging party!
Instead of excluding, perhaps a better idea is to invite those who need the father’s love to a party in their honor. Forget making up all the reasons why that’s not a good idea. It doesn’t HAVE to make sense to you. The Father’s grace and love doesn’t make sense, and it isn’t “fair” because it is given to those who don’t deserve it. It is given freely. There are no qualifications to receive it. There is no sin big enough to separate the sinner from it. It is a gift. Sometimes you and I are privileged enough to be able to carry that gift and lay it at the feet of someone who needs to receive it. We can’t do that by exclusion. It is impossible to do so.
We don’t get to decide who gets this gift of grace. Lay the gift at the feet of even (gasp) the homosexual. Let the recipient decide whether to pick it up or not. And if the package can’t be delivered right away, let’s develop a better reputation than even FedEx by bringing it back for another attempted delivery, again and again and again.