For many years I was part of the Prison Ministry, working with prisoners in jails across the state. A story I used to frequently tell those in jail, was of the prodigal son:
A certain man had two sons. When the younger told his father, “I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die!” his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.
A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and took a trip to a distant land, and there wasted and lost all his money on parties and prostitutes.
When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, “At home even the hired men have food enough and to spare, and here I am, dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired man.”
So, he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming, and was filled with loving pity and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
And his father said to the slaves, “Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. And a jeweled ring for his finger; and shoes! We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has returned to life. He was lost and is found.”
Meanwhile, the elder son was in the fields working; when he returned home, was very angry and wouldn’t go in to the house, so his father came out and begged him, but he replied, “When this son of yours comes back after spending your money on prostitutes, you celebrate?”
“Look, dear son,” his father said to him, “you and I are very close, and everything I have is yours. But it is right to celebrate. For he is your brother; and he was dead and has come back to life! He was lost and is found!”
And as I used to finish the story from the Holy scriptures, hardened criminals cry; suddenly they realize that the law of the land imprisons, punishes and exiles, whereas a loving God forgives and hugs them back to himself.
But today it is to some of us I address this story. Our world is full of such ‘elder brothers’: Self-righteous people who hate the idea of former drunkards, adulterers, and others who lost their way, like the prodigal son, wanting to return to God.
It doesn’t matter what they say, for God shouts out to us, “It is time to celebrate! You were lost and now you have been found!” And opens His arms to hug us back to Him..!
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