Last week America observed the National Day of Prayer. Prayers were offered across the nation for a country in distress, a country that has turned collectively from God with disastrous results.
In many ways, the past years could be described as some of the most difficult in history for our society. Violence, greed and corruption have characterized a culture which could best be described as blinded toward God.
More than 30 years ago, while I was a camp director for an organization that worked with troubled young people, I discovered a movie with a powerful message which we showed at every camp session.
The movie, "Blood on the Mountain," detailed the story of two escaped convicts on the run. Their frantic escape was a reminder of what we all must look like when we turn our backs on God and run toward what we perceive as freedom but what, in fact, is servitude. What I remember most about the movie was a song on the soundtrack, which went something like this:
"You've been running, running, for a long, long time.
You've been running, running, with no peace of mind.
Why don't you turn, turn, turn around? Why do you roam?
Can't you see God the Father waits to welcome you home?
You were never meant to walk the path you've trod.
How long will you run away, a fugitive from God?"
In a moving illustration of Christ's sacrifice for us, one of the convicts gave up his life to save the life of the other man. The convict heard the message of Christ's love and acceptance, stopped running, and turned his life over to God.
In our own running, we have succeeded in freeing ourselves (and our children) from any sense of purpose, meaning or hope. In our quest for freedom from responsibility, we have sacrificed the truth. The horrifying result is the death of peace, joy, purpose, justice and mercy.
While we run to what we see as freedom, we are heading into servitude. We are running, hurrying away from a personal relationship with God, and we as a nation are paying the cost. Read some of the writings of those students around this country who have committed horrendous acts of murder/suicide, and their own testimonials speak more of hopelessness than of hurt.
We have tried to live without God. We have failed.
Jesus told the story of a young man we call "the prodigal son." The son demanded his inheritance and turned his back on his father, running to a life of wild living, selfishness and so-called "freedom."
Eventually, when his money ran out, his companions ran out too. He was forced to eat pig food to survive. Groveling with the animals, he realized that his father still waited at home for him.
He realized the freedom he sought so desperately had cost him in every way. He decided to stop running away, and returned to the waiting arms of his loving father. The Bible tells us the father ran to greet his son, and greeted him with joy and relief.
The prodigal son in Jesus' story stopped running. We've run from God long enough. Let's turn and run back to him.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA 30016. Or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org