This week families will gather. It’s Thanksgiving. All across the nation, wonderful families will gather and give thanks. But, then on the other hand, our families are not always perfect. There are those children who rebel. There are those husbands and daddies and wives and mommas who rebel. And because of that, “being part of a family is sometimes hard.” And because of that, these things tend to get rather complicated around the holidays.
So, let me offer a couple of applications today from a very familiar story—the story that we call “The Prodigal Son.” I have preferred over the years to refer to the story as “The Parable of the Lost Boy” because it comes in a sequence of three stories—the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost boy. In each parable, something is lost, and then found. In each story, when the “something that is lost” is found, there is great rejoicing. Jesus uses these stories to show the Pharisees that rejoicing should take place over the salvation of every lost sinner. Beyond that application, I have often found that in particular with the third parable, there are several important ways that we can apply this story to illustrate the importance of grace in our lives. Specifically, with the grace of God being our backdrop, I want to use this parable to give us a pointed application in regards to the grace we need in families. Let’s face it—being a part of a family—whether your physical family or your spiritual family of the church—is hard.
As we think about our less than perfect families and as we think about the holiday season upon us, would you consider these lessons today? They are hard, but I think we need to hear them.
1. No rebel can be allowed to ruin the rest of the home.
Certainly Jesus told this parable as a story. We ought not to assume that He had a particular family in mind or that He knew of an actual family where this had occurred. However, it is also true that the younger son in this story is rebellious. Again, more than just greedy, he is rebellious. We can further assume his rebellion by his immediate actions when he is on his own. The rebellion must be dealt with before the whole home is ruined.
I have dear friends who have experienced this very thing in their family. It is hard. You are going to feel like you are giving up. But can I help you to see something this morning? What do you want as the ultimate outcome? Do you want more rebellion? Do you want more sin? Doing nothing is going to lead to more rebellion. Taking action puts into motion the opportunity for repentance. Keep thinking about the parable.
2. If rebellion necessitates separation, let it happen.
So, and I know it is hard, but sometimes in order for repentance to occur there has to be something as serious as separation. Remember, it is not giving up; it is giving God a chance. Think about what would not have happened in the parable if there would not have been separation. The younger son would not have come to the end of himself and realized that he needed home—that he needed his father.
3. When separation happens, let go.
Did I say it is hard? It is, but remember the desired outcome. I love this part of the story of the father “seeing his son from a long way off.” He didn’t go looking for him, but then again he was constantly looking for him. And don’t forget that is the way it is with God toward us. He is always looking for our return.
4. When true repentance happens, let true grace abound.
The son’s return is the most exciting part of the story, but there is a twist. There is someone else at home that is not all that excited about this turn of events. I am reminded that showing grace is also hard.
One of the more public prodigals of all time is Franklin Graham, son of Billy and Ruth Graham. He tells his story in his autobiography, Rebel with a Cause. His rebellion started early in life. After being kicked out of a Christian high school and then later a Christian college, Franklin’s rebellion came to a crossroads. As a young adult he persuaded his parents to lend him enough money to buy a Land Rover so he could do “missionary work” in Turkey. Lying to them, instead, he went joyriding through Europe with one hand on the steering wheel and the other on a fifth of scotch, as he described it. He felt he could drive better if he was relaxed.
Finally, his father had had enough. Billy Graham told Franklin he had to decide whether he was “going to live [his] life for Christ or [himself].”
“It really ticked me off when he said that,” says Franklin, “because he was right.” About three weeks later, in a hotel room all alone, Franklin committed his life for the first time to Christ.
So, where do you find yourself in this story of the Prodigal? One of the beauties of this story is that almost everyone can find themselves somewhere in this story.
Have you rebelled? Come clean. Do you have someone rebelling? Seek God’s wisdom to be active in that which gives the greatest opportunity for repentance. Do you need to extend grace? Do it—It is what God did for us.
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