Many years ago, a teenager came into the lives of our family and became friends with our kids. He was polite, friendly, and seemingly a committed Christian. He was the product of a Christian family, a good church, and active in the youth group. SO, it came as a surprise when suddenly we found out he had run away.
It didn’t take long for the details to unravel, but the main thing at the time seemed to be, he just didn’t want to live by the rules of his home. I knew his parents, they were humble, kind, sweet people. I know things aren’t always what they seem, but I sensed it was deeper than problems with his parents, it was really problems from within himself.
It didn’t take long for the church and friends to intervene, and we all rejoiced when he eventually reconciled with his family. Over the next few years, he became active again in the church, went to a Christian university, and was saying and doing all the right things… on the outside. But for those of us that knew him it all seemed, well, surface… tentative.
Sadly, it came as no real shock when the day came, days after his college graduation, he would move to an area welcoming to his recently, publicly proclaimed alternative lifestyle. Then came the social media posts, mocking the upbringing he had, church, friends, and school. And when people lovingly responded that they are praying or voicing concern, he would attack them. When people would start “unfriending” him or blocking his posts, he would call them discriminating, hostel, or worse to his new lifestyle. But his posts were vulgar, like shaking his fist at Christians, Christianity, and God. I didn’t blame people for blocking him.
The Bible tells us that this can happen. In spite of good influences like church, school, friends, pastors, and parents, people who know all about God can still ignore it and walk away. Romans also tells us that God will let them go, give them up to uncleanness through lusts of their own hearts and to vile affections…
“Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;” Romans 1:24–28. KJV
Paul addressed the issue with these Romans, that begrudgingly, He will “give them up” to their evil desires. After all, what can He do? He’s given these individuals the truth delivered and modeled all around Him, what else is left?
This word “to give up” was extensively used in the passion story, every time someone gave Jesus over to someone. It was also extensively used in relationship to the trials the martyrs experienced. This is a very painful and compelling “giving up” of someone, and it no doubt pains God to do so.
I’m reminded of the similar pain inflicted on the father in Luke 15:11-32, who also had to give up his son to his own lustful passions. And what is typical in these scenarios, often, after having pursued the lust and vile affections, they discover the emptiness at the end of that path… as well as all along the way.
Paul says at the end of verse 28, God gives them up “to do those things that are not convenient,” which I believe means God allows them to go down the path that never leads to what they expected, and never gives fulfillment. (That’s a little speculation, based on use of the word elsewhere.)
I have watched now for years this young man living out the path he has chosen. He’s bitter, angry, tries to hide his sadness with posts and pictures as though he is “living his best life,” but he clearly isn’t… and it’s sad. You can see that sadness deepen with every post.
But thankfully, like the father in the prodigal story, that last hand that let that wayward son go will be the first to welcome him back. That Hand is always outstretched!
I pray for his young man, and, I haven’t blocked him. I pray that this man, who lives less than an hour away from me, will one day let me (or someone else) back into his life. Because the truth Paul shares about God in Roman’s is always balanced out by a loving God with a hand reached out… waiting.
Don’t give up on the prodigals… they know the truth, they know the Word, they know God and are only one outreached hand away!
Dr. Ronald J. Barnes, Jr.
September 20, 2022