When the Prodigal is your Prodigal

Although the old proverb says, “blood is thicker than water,” meaning that “blood relations” are more important than other relationships, it just isn’t true. In actuality, “water is thicker than blood.” That is, the waters of baptism bring us into a relationship with Jesus that should supersede our own “blood relations.”

Proof? Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:34-37).

This difficult truth is never more put to the test than when “the prodigal” is “your prodigal.” What should a parent or a sibling do when their son/daughter or brother/sister, who was once faithful, no longer walks with the Lord? In short, “Weep.” “Pray,” “Instruct and plead,” “Weep some more,” “Pray some more,” “Plead some more.” etc. You get the idea. But what is the faithful child of God to do when their “blood relation” prodigal remains impenitent having been given sufficient time and ignored countless desperate appeals to repent? The reason I ask that question is that you might be surprised by what the Bible teaches and how it differs from what so many practice. Rather than me answering this question, let’s allow the word of God to answer this question.

“But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner – not even to eat with such a person” (1 Corinthians 5:11).

“But we command you , brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us” (2 Thessalonians 3:6).

“If anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15).

It’s at this point we will frequently hear things like…

  • “Yeah, but this is my son/daughter or brother/sister we’re talking about.” (Answer: all the more reason to follow the wise, infallible counsel of the Lord as he instructs us how best to bring about reconciliation of the prodigal Christian).
  • “You can’t expect me to just turn my back on my family.” (Answer: that may very well be the exact thought that went through the mind of Lot’s wife just before she looked back toward her wayward children).
  • “I think I can do more good by keeping company with them as opposed to not keeping company with them.” (Answer: shouldn’t such a thought be uncomfortably presumptuous. The very idea that we might know better than God).

Friends, the bottom line is that this is one of the most difficult moments in the life of a disciple.  What could possibly test the loyalty of a Christian any more than having to choose Jesus over one’s own family? When “the prodigal” is “your prodigal,” then you truly discover if you love the Lord more than your family, or your family more than your Lord.

Brethren, don’t try to justify disobedience. Don’t aid and abet your prodigal “blood relations” in their self-destructive path. Withdraw. Don’t keep company. Don’t eat with them. Never grow calloused. Continue to pray for their return. Don’t give up hope. Don’t allow bitterness and hurt invade your heart. And replace the former fellowship you once shared with them with admonition. These commands are among the most difficult commands in the Bible. If a person can be “bought,” these commands will certainly manifest it. For Judas, it was just 30 pieces of silver. For others, it seems it may be they are willing to betray the Lord for the price of maintaining their family dynamics.

May God strengthen us that we might be faithful to him in all things. May our love for him surpass even the great depth of love we have for our own families. And when “the prodigal” is “your prodigal,” I pray that the family of God will surround you, support you, and demonstrate that “water is thicker than blood.”

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