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FIRST-PERSON: Welcome them home

DORA, Ala. — You know the story of the Prodigal Son. He asks his father to give him his share of what he would receive at the time of his dad’s death rather than having to wait. The son then wastes no time in plunging into a lifestyle of utter selfishness, abandoning his father and everything he has taught him.

So what did the father do? He watched for him. He waited for him. I believe countless times a day he prayed for him.

And the father’s prayers were heard and answered. Jesus says of that young man, “When he finally came to his senses … he returned home to his father” (Luke 15:17a, 20a, NLT).

We aren’t told how many years and how many tears passed between when the son left and returned. But what we do know is that the father never gave up. He waited expectantly every day for his boy to come home.

And then it happened: “… while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him” (Luke 15:20b).

At a time when most churches are doing good to see one-fourth of their members show up on any given Sunday, that’s a pretty good indicator the family of God has a lot of prodigals. When you see one, what should you do? Welcome him. Lovingly greet him.

Whether he’s shown up for church or you bump into him in the grocery store, tell him, “It’s so good to see you.” Pray for wisdom in what else you say. Listen for any life issues he may mention.

Churches should be the most welcoming, loving places on the planet and Jesus gave us a beautiful example to follow for how to treat a returning family member.

    About the Author

  • Judy Woodward Bates