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The Father and the Prodigals 08/31/2007

Michael Vick

People facing moral challenges need our help, not our judgment.

Humiliating and confusing revelations continue to flow unchecked. When the news media seemingly rejoices in the opportunity to reveal the failures of others, we have to honestly ask, "How do we respond as a people of faith, as well as a compassionate, but principled, nation?"

In recent days we witnessed the embarrassing reports of Senator Craig of Idaho, an NFL quarterback exposed for gambling at the expense of man's best friend, continual reports of out of control actions on the part of entertainers -- Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, now the attempted suicide of Owen Wilson. On top of this we saw a bishop beat his minister wife, Juanita Bynum, and heard the divorce announcement of Paula and Randy White, founding pastors of Church Without Walls and television ministers, both of whom plan to continue uninterrupted in ministry (although we do not know what counsel is taking place and how they are responding to their relationship). We also have Ted Haggard writing appeal letters to members of his former New Life Church without the approval of his overseers. All this while the church is in the process of calling a new pastor (who happens to have been an associate pastor at Gateway Church, where Betty and I attend, under the pastoral care of Robert Morris, whom you've probably seen on our television program a number of times.)

What should we do? When dealing with sin there are some aspects we would be wise to consider. We need to understand God's role in dealing with our sin, our part as individuals caught by sin and the part of the family of believers.

GOD'S PART: CONVICTION
A loving Father convinces us of our sin, revealing it and identifying it. He makes it clear to our heart through His written word and His prevailing spirit that we are out of harmony with His will. Continuing in this manner is painful to all. God never places boundaries in our lives as prison walls, but rather as a system of protection to extend the blessings and abundance life can afford.

OUR PART: CONFESSION
We agree with God. We practice what the old-fashioned word "repent" implies and means. It is not only a change of direction, but it is also a change of mind. We agree with God and ask for His mercy, grace, forgiveness and ultimately the wholeness and healing that only His abiding presence can provide.

GOD'S PART: CLEANSING AND COVERING
His son Jesus died to take the blame, to take the shame, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. God is not part of the blame game. He wants to make us whole.

He is not seeking to expose us or hurt us. He wants to cover us to protect us. He has clearly taught us that sin does damage. The consequences can be severe. God wants to correct the damage. He is not in the business of destroying those who have been hurt. He wants to make us overcomers.

The believer who is sensitive to the heart of God will never condone sin, nor condemn the sinner. When an individual or leader has failed, there will be consequences. Oftentimes a leadership role is forfeited, but this is not to imply that a leader who fails can have no future in leadership. The Bible is filled with examples of this: Joseph's fell in arrogance before leading of the entire nation; Elijah pouted; David miserably failed, but was restored and wrote his greatest Psalms and messages; Peter denied Christ in His time of greatest need and yet, after the conviction, confession, cleansing and covering and supernatural change, became the keynote speaker at Pentecost.

The last part of this process of confession of sin and total cleansing and proper covering is manifested by the CHANGE in us. This is a process that may take time, but if we yield to His will, He will make us whole. Some areas of our life require persistence, perseverance and time. Discipline will be required. In order to produce good fruit, we have to properly prepare the soil to receive the seed.

Another area necessary for wholeness is CONNECTEDNESS. The process of being made whole is to be rightly connected with others. Many recovery programs talk about codependency. We are not only dependent upon God, but we are dependent upon God in one another. The vertical and horizontal relationship is necessary.

It is very important for us to recognize the value and necessity of meaningful relationships. The enemy of life has effectively kept family members apart to destroy relationships and futures.

The world is still waiting to see the Father of the prodigal. God's love is openly extended to those who do not claim a relationship with God. His arms are open wide to receive, forgive, cleanse and redeem. But remember, the prodigal in the story was a family member! And the only one who held a grudge against the prodigal was his brother, who had never left home.

Many people in the family of faith seem ready to extend this offer of grace to those outside the family, but resentful towards those within the family. It was no mistake that Jesus told the story of the prodigal about a family member.

And by the way, the one with the real attitude totally unlike God, but very much like many mean spirited self-righteous religious people, was the son who never left the house. He stayed home, but was controlled by a foul spirit which manifested when the brother returned and the father received his son, covered his nakedness, put shoes on his feet and rejoiced. The prodigal came home broken and contrite, totally repentant, totally submissive and willing to spend his life as a slave, but a loving father wants sons, not slaves. He wants us to have a servant's heart in order to share the life and love of God with others, totally unlike the prodigal brother that never left home.

I want to repeat something I've said before: I've never met a qualified stone thrower, although I've crossed paths with many who think they have their graduate degree in the practice. Yes, the due course of law should be put in effect whether it's President Clinton, Senator Craig, Michael Vick, a pastor or a bishop, but the bottom line should be the restoration of the individual's life, the relationships affected and the establishment of a secure and stable future. This is what the Father offers all prodigals. Let us all remember the words of Jesus, "Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy." This does not imply failure to deal with sin and its consequences. It simply makes clear that when someone's world caves in or when they openly admit to others that they made a mess with their poor choices, they have to be able to find their way into the arms of a loving Father. May God help us to do His will and reveal His heart. The world needs to see and know this Father.


Author: James Robison

Word Count: 1178

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and his wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at jamesrobison.net

Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.