Jeff Gibson: 4 Lessons to Learn from One Prodigal Son
In 1941, a difficult 70 year long prodigal son story began to unfold in a hospital bed in wartime Soviet Union. Nursing a shoulder wound from the Battle of Bryansk, Mikhail Kalashnikov, would set out to create weapons that would help defend his homeland from German invasion.
Over time, these weapons, the most well known being the AK-47, would be copied over 100 million times as the tool of choice for those intent on creating destruction on six continents.
A Soviet celebrity of sorts, Kalashnikov traveled the world declaring his atheism and defending the value of a material world over the freedoms and faith in Christ that hundreds of millions would immediately embrace following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The fall of the Soviet empire though did not dissuade Kalashnikov's atheism ... grace did.
And here are four things that we can take from this story of how ministry worked in this story of a prodigal son who was very far away from God but came home, started to see his life through God's eyes, and on December 23, 2013 passed away.
When the son returns embrace him. At the age of 90, Kalashnikov returned to the faith of 'his peasant parents' and began seeing his place in history through God's eyes with the help of the Russian Orthodox Church and its leaders.
In the parable of the prodigal son, the father chooses grace and helps his son heal.
Take the time to hear the son out. In the parable, the father does not hesitate to embrace him, placing him right back in the family and hearing him out.
When Kalashnikov decided to accept responsibility for his creation's role in history, he wrote a letter to the Russian Orthodox patriarch Kirill detailing his concerns. Kalashnikov received a thoughtful, personal response from the busy leader in a church that reaches millions.
Use discernment when discussing events and leave the judgement to God. In the parable, the son who stayed loyal speaks clearly of the pain his brother caused. His father doesn't pretend it didn't happen, but discerningly accepts his wayward son back into the fold.
Kalashnikov had been a very public part of the state apparatus that did its best to stamp out the Russian Orthodox Church. He had belittled and designed many of the tools used in oppression of people of faith globally. In his letter to Patriarch Kirill, Kalashnikov asks soberly of the weight of his role in history. The patriarch makes clear that Kalashnikov's work was meant to defend his country from a German invasion that killed 25 million, not to spread war globally. You can see, the patriarch doesn't ignore events or judge. His response helps Kalashnikov come to terms and grow with God.
Meet people where they are with what you have available. In the parable, the father runs to embrace his son, clothing and caring for him with the best the family had available.
Kalashnikov came to the Church looking for the peace of God's love in the final stages of his life. He turned to one of his church's senior most leaders to open his understanding of God and God's love for him personally and the leader and his church provided it despite all that had happened before his conversion.
The prodigal son's father never let the shadows and darkness of events obscure his view of his son's soul, the tortured light that needed healing. Stories of resolution like the prodigal son's and Mikhail Kalashnikov's often contain darkness that is impossible for us to fathom but we do understand the need for souls to be healed.
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About Jeff Gibson
Jeff Gibson has been a communications strategist for over 20 years for organizations in the private, public, and ministry areas. In 2009, he co-founded and currently still leads the Social Media Ministry at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA. Follow him on Twitter at@Insightable, Facebook at JGibson100, and on the web at JGibson.me.