The Prodigal Son

Cast of Characters:

Older Brother or Older Sister, played by OB

Younger Brother or Younger Sister, played by YB

Dad and Mom, played by Dad

You know the kind of family this kid comes from. The dad is really successful, like the richest guy in town. The oldest son follows right in daddy’s footsteps and gets lots of approval and thinks he’s pretty hot stuff. You know all about this—the kid next to you in school has a brother like that or maybe you do yourself.  Anyway, OB presides over the Entrepreneur’s Club, is an honor graduate, and meets his dad’s fondest hopes by coming into the family business.

Or maybe dad’s not rich; maybe the family is really religious. You know the kind of people who clean the church, do the books, are nice to everybody, and raise a family without scandal, the ultimate religious status symbol. In this case, OB focuses on being well-liked, upright, good academics too, of course. He’s the honest, responsible, trustworthy, and utterly successful guy. This golden boy or girl is the delight of daddy’s heart but is unbelievably smug, like really pleased with himself for being such a good Christian, never causing a moment’s anxiety. And dad feels so good about himself for having raised such a marvel.

But I ask you what is YB to do? Be a carbon copy? I mean, fat chance that OB is going to move over and make room and like share the lime light or dad’s love or good opinion, not Main-Chance-Charlie. Oh, if YB will worship him and go around saying how big brother is so wonderful and led him to the Lord, OB’ll condescend to him and let people think good things about him. Just so long as it’s clear that OB is the vastly superior one. But anyone with spirit isn’t going to do that. I mean what kind of future is it—hanging onto your big brother’s coattails.

Also, since dad (or mom) is wrapped up in ole Main-Chance-Charlie (or maybe Charlene) and feeling really good about himself for having such a son, he’s a little ticked with YB for not looking so good. His idea of helping YB is telling him to straighten up and be like OB. He shows YB all the ways he’s not as perfect as OB and how he could improve to add to the family’s image.

Now you know what YB does next. Ya, he looks for greener pastures. He always finds them too. The world is full of outcasts, maybe other YBs, wanting to tell YB how neat he is. So pretty soon, the conversation around the house having gotten unpleasant, YB splits. You all know what happens next. YB moves into the fast lane.

And dad (or mom) has to explain to the neighbors, the church, and the relatives how YB is the bad seed. I mean this isn’t their fault—look how well OB has turned out.  Besides, dad (or mom) has been telling them for years—usually in front of YB—that he knew when YB was born that this one was gonna be a problem. Well, now this prediction has come true. And after all they’ve done for him, YB’s totally humiliating their image. And in their eyes there’s no greater sin. Some parents have huge screaming matches with YB at this point. But the really committed self-righteous suffer in silence, acting out of “love.” You all know that kind of love, it judges in silence with only the curl of the lip or the turn of the nose subtly betraying the real feeling. And nobody says anything. If YB comes home, everybody is really happy. The family has a pecking order and he’s at the bottom. And everybody else is cool as long as he stays there. The family is really smug; because they’re good enough to accept this kid back again, after what he’s done. And everyone says how wonderful they are.  All the towns across America have YBs. They are the price everybody else is willing to pay to look good.

But there’s a story about a different kind of family. In this family when YB wants to split, you find out that he has a true Father. And the father loves and believes in YB, wants to help him, gives him a stake. And when YB bombs and YBs always bomb because they’re hurt, he knows he can go home. Most YBs avoid home like the plague, because that’s the seat of judgment. But this guy goes home, and that right there tells you a lot about his father. And instead of a reception committee happy to be able to rub it in and put the guy firmly in his place once and for all, what does he find? He finds a Father, a guy who runs out to meet him crying, who says this is the greatest day of my life for my son has come home.  He elevates his devastated son with his love to the place of highest honor. No snide remarks, no hidden opinions, no corrections, no criticisms, no asides about how he’ll just fail again because he’s been bad since birth. Nope, not in this family. Just overwhelming love, acceptance, and joy. Of course, there’s always a fly in the ointment. Remember OB? He’s right on track. That’s how we learn the truth about this guy who’ll never show his hand until he’s lost the game. Until then he’s utterly committed to pretending. But now he has lost because the father loves YB. So OB starts grousing about how it’s not fair that YB, the bad seed, should be put on an equal footing with OB himself who’s always been good. But the father who loves won’t cease to love YB because OB is a self-righteous con artist. He chooses to love both his children equally, not one more than the other. And that is how YB discovers the truth of his father’s love.

If this happened now, like in your school, the whole school would crowd around that father. Because everyone is starving for that kind of love. We’ve just never seen it.  Religious people always tell you how much they love you while they stab you in the back with silent judgment. But a true father truly loves and loves all equally. Now only one person ever really loved like that because love’s a God thing.

Do you know any YBs? Maybe you’re one yourself. Well, if you are, you don’t have to wait for a miracle to strike your parents. Because there is a Father with that kind of love and a Big Brother who didn’t hog that love but died so you could share it. He gets lied about a lot, even in churches, maybe especially in churches. The truth is the love He has is just for you, because you’re just the kind of person He picked out to love, not the OBs. They don’t really need Him. They’re busy with their church meetings, the good opinion of the town, their own perfection, and the “blessings of God.” (Some of them will tell you for hours about how special they are and how God has blessed them while you stand in front of them dying.) You know, you’ve met them. But see, God didn’t come down here for them. In fact, He wrote a lot about them in His Book. He called them Pharisees and whited sepulchers, I mean if they ever discovered that they’re a total mess and admitted it, He’d jump right over to love them. But what’s the odds?

But He picked you out to love, to protect, to defend, to take care of, to carry your problems, to show you the safe way to go, to give you a whole new nature inside yourself by coming to live in you, to forgive all your wrong, to give you life and joy with Him for always. Too much to believe? It all goes with true love. His name may surprise you, because the OBs have tried to take Him over and say He belongs to them. But He doesn’t. In fact, He told them that He doesn’t even know them. But He wants to know you. And if you can blow off all the lies put out about Him by the OBs, you can walk right up and meet Him right now. Because His name is Jesus. And He really came down here from a pretty soft spot just to help YBs like you and me. If you want to know Him, to accept all His gifts to you, His beloved child, just tell Him that you want Him to save you from the mess that is your life and come and live in you and love you and be your friend. And, I promise, He’ll be there before you finish talking. He’s no OB. He’s for real.

And, if you want to learn about Him and who He is and how He can do all this, pick up a Bible. Only get one you can trust like the King James Version, that hasn’t been watered down by too many OBs. There’re a lot of really good books in the Bible. But if you want to read a book by someone who knew Jesus really well, look into the book of John–John knew His love and wrote about it. If you ask Him, God will give you loving friends who know Him. Not everybody who says they love God and love you really does—they may be OBs in YBs’ clothing. If you stay close to Jesus and ask Him about everything you do, He’ll become a close friend who guides you safely. Always look to love. Avoid people who think you should be just like them. That’s not Jesus’ way.

–Kaylyn Turner, October 1996

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