In a recent sermon on the Prodigal Son passage, Jimmy Gentry tells this story: "I remember when Fred found Christ and asked him into his life back in 1973 in my hometown. Most of us couldn't believe it. He was as low-down as they came. He was bad news. Fred did drugs and even sold drugs on the high school campus. He never got caught. He made fun of everybody who didn't smoke pot or shoot up with something. Fred was really wasting his life. But one day in the summer of '73, he "came to himself" . . . just as this unruly son did of whom Jesus spoke in Luke 15. Hardly any of us who were Christians could believe it. In fact, Fred was invited to share his testimony in some of the churches there in my hometown. I had never been invited to share my testimony in those churches and I had always lived for the Lord, or so I thought. This went on for a few months. Fred kept sharing his faith. And many people - I'm ashamed to say I was one of them - kept saying, 'I can't believe those churches are inviting such a terrible person to come speak.' And then my pastor invited him to speak at my church.
"I have to tell you that I was ticked. There was no way this guy could be saved! How dare my new pastor do this! I had been one of seven members on the Pastor Search Committee that called him straight out of seminary in March of that same year. He was just 26 years old. Who did he think he was? Then my pastor confronted me and said something like this, 'Jimmy, I've observed you to be a steady, easy-going guy who isn't a fanatic about Jesus, but one who seeks to follow Him. Trust me, you're no saint, but I do think you are trying to live for Jesus. Jesus loves you so much. Do you believe Jesus loves everybody regardless?' Very proudly I said in my 16-year old piety, 'Jesus loves everybody in the world and wants a relationship with everybody!' And then my pastor said, 'That includes Fred, doesn't it?' Then it hit me. I was stunned. I had an overwhelming sense of conviction as I "came to my senses." . . . In fact, I cried. My pastor embraced me and held me until the sobs stopped. He said, 'Jimmy, Fred needs you and he needs our youth group. He needs our church. He has Jesus, but he doesn't have us.'
"The wrong done against Fred couldn't be undone. But doing the right thing could right it: reaching out to Fred and welcoming him as a young brother in Christ who had come home to do the right thing himself." (Jimmy Gentry is Pastor of Tabernacle Baptist Church in Carrollton, GA)