LISTEN: BCNN1’s The Gospel According to Greenleaf Podcast #1: The Prodigal Returns

"Greenleaf" cast; photo courtesy of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network
“Greenleaf” cast; photo courtesy of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network

Thank you for tuning in to The Gospel According to Greenleaf. In this brief, weekly podcast, we will examine some of the themes of Oprah Winfrey’s new drama set in a large black church that deals with issues that all churches face. If you know anything about BCNN1, you know that our main purpose is to spread the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ by any means necessary, so that is the ultimate aim of this podcast.

In only two episodes, Greenleaf touched on many different themes, including:

1. The return of a prodigal child, which reminds us of how God welcomes His prodigal children back home after they have gone astray.

2. The importance of Calvary and the blood of Jesus Christ in our salvation. In Greenleaf, the name of the church is Calvary and in one of the first scenes, the pastor’s wife proclaimed at the dinner table loud and clear that it was the blood of Jesus Christ that saved her soul. (Contrary to what some people think, I believe Oprah trusted Jesus Christ as her Saviour in recent years and that she is a babe in Christ. However, I believe like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, she is trying to do her part to proclaim Jesus Christ to a dying and lost world given the position that God has placed her in.)

3. The real life issue of adult children coming back home after being gone a while was forcibly confronted in the words of Lady Mae Greenleaf, “Promise me you’re not here to sow discord in the fields of my peace.”

4. Sin in the church, which many people do not like to talk about even though they know it is going on.

5. The prosperity gospel, and how many churches and church families in leadership are abusing the flock of God for monetary gain. This is a real problem in many churches today. (The Jet thing however was bit overdone to the point of silliness.)

6. Sex in the church, which is another thing many church folk do not like to talk about, yet which we all know is going on, and often times in sinful ways. (By the way, one of the reasons why Greenleaf comes on so late is because some scenes are not suitable for children.)

7. Child sexual abuse, rape, and molestation by so-called ministers in the church.

8. Homosexuality and the church, which we pray and hope Oprah will deal with from a Biblical perspective and represent both sides of the debate evenhandedly.

There is a lot that we can talk about from these episodes, but today, I want to focus on the theme of a prodigal child returning.

The first episode focuses on Grace Greenleaf, the prodigal daughter of the prominent Greenleaf family. She had been expected to take over the church after her father, but she cut her ties with the family and the church and has been gone for twenty years. Spurred on by the death (or suicide) of her sister, Grace is led to return to the family home in Memphis.

Her arrival is reminiscent of a parable Jesus told in the Bible about the prodigal son. Grace’s father, James, welcomes her with open arms, while her mother, sister, and sister-in-law are not so welcoming for reasons of their own — with her mother, played by the incomparable Lynn Whitfield, saying in her daughter’s ear very sternly, “Promise me you’re not here to sow discord in the fields of my peace.” By the way, both Lynn Whitfield and her television husband, Keith David, as well Oprah and Deborah Joy Winans are acting their tails off. Of course, it is expected of the first three, but Deborah Joy Winans is holding her own to be new to the game. And Bebe Winans is doing a great job behind the scenes advising to give the drama an authentic black church feel. If Bebe holds that imaginary line for Oprah, the show will be a perennial hit.

In Jesus’ story, the prodigal son, after demanding his inheritance, left home to pursue his own life abroad. After years of a life of partying, running women, and wasting money, he found himself in poverty. He was so poor that he had to take a job feeding pigs, and was so hungry that he ate what the pigs ate. But the Bible tells us that, “When he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.”

When the father saw his son returning to him, he “had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him… [And] the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”

Unfortunately, the prodigal son’s older brother was not so happy to see all of the celebration over his little brother’s return. The father had to explain to him, “It is meet [that is, proper] that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”

Ultimately, the story of the prodigal son and the story of Grace Greenleaf, the prodigal daughter, is about all of us and our relationship with the Heavenly Father. All of us, at some point in our life, have strayed from God. Perhaps you grew up in the church or in Christian family, but you drifted as you got older. Or maybe you never were connected to the family of God at all. Please know that it is never too late to come back to God or to come to Him for the first time. Like James Greenleaf and like the father of the prodigal son, He will welcome you with open arms.

Jesus Christ said, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”

Will you be the child who returns to their Heavenly Father today? Allow me to show you how you can do that.

First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”

Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Now that is bad news, but here is the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.

Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.

If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”

May God bless you, and I hope that you will join us next time for The Gospel According to Greenleaf.