Singer Tony Orlando recorded “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” in 1973, the story of a man after release from prison. He tells his sweetheart to tie a yellow ribbon to the oak tree if she’ll welcome him, but if he doesn’t see the ribbon, he’ll stay on the bus and travel on. When he drew nearer home the former inmate was too nervous to look; he asked his fellow travelers to report what they saw. They began to cheer when they saw 100 yellow ribbons inviting him home!
This song found instant success, reaching the top 10 in 10 countries. In eight of those, it topped the charts. It was the number one song in America and Great Britain for four weeks, for seven weeks in Australia and 10 weeks in New Zealand. In 2008, Billboard ranked “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” the 37th biggest song of all time in their Top 100 list.
There’s something exciting about coming home and finding welcome.
Sadly I’ve known of instances where this didn’t happen. I’ve been in a number of prisons and know it’s a terrible and isolated place. I heard a radio counselor advise a caller to have nothing to do with a relative who’d gone to prison. Some inmates resist release since they have no one who cares for them and no hope.
Most of us don’t live in prison cells, but scripture teaches we live in the prison of our bad choices. Jesus said, “The one who commits sin becomes the servant of sin” (John 8:34).
Jesus further underscored this concept in one of his two greatest parables, both in the Gospel of Luke. We call it the story of the prodigal son. This man had the lights of the city in his eyes. He thought if he got to “the far country” his life would be better. The father gave him his rightful inheritance and released him to the hard reality of his rebellion. The boy soon lost his money and his honor. He found himself in the pig pen, alone and covered with filth. He determined to go home asking for a servant’s job rather than a son’s position.
His first plea to the father was selfish: “give me.” Now his plea was “make me,” realizing he was powerless to bring change on his own.
The young man was surprised to see the father running to meet him. Aristotle said great men don’t run in public; it’s beneath their dignity. This father represents God. Think of it—a God who runs to meet us when we return to him!
The God we serve is eager to meet us more than halfway when we weary of rebellion and come home.
“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.