Every family has one, and that “one” I am talking about is the “Black Sheep”; the one member of the family that has wandered off, done wrong and as a result has ostracized himself (or herself) from their family.
Today’s message is based on an event that recently happened to a family I have known for a long time.
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From this large family, one brother had lied, cheated and even stole from his siblings, and abandoned the children he produced from different wives. After years of this type of behavior, he ultimately lost the trust and friendship of every one of his siblings, exes, and children. Essentially, he had used up his ability to mooch off his family. When that happened, he re-connected with a woman who had stalked him for many years (she also had her own issues) so that he was able to find the ultimate Meal Ticket. For nearly a decade no one in the family had heard from him.
This past week one of the family members was contacted by the police in the area where he was living to advise them that he had been found in his apartment, deceased.
Not one of the family wanted to claim the body, yet all were saddened by his passing. He died alone, he never married his partner who had died years before (he never let anyone know this), and they know almost nothing about his life for the past 10 years.
I want to quote just the first 4 verses from David’s Psalm 36 (CJB):
For the leader. By David, the servant of ADONAI: Crime speaks to the wicked. I perceive this in my heart; before his eyes there is no fear of God. For, the way he sees it, crime makes his life easy that is, until his wrongs are discovered; then, he is hated. His words are wrong and deceitful; he has stopped being wise and doing good. He devises trouble as he lies in bed; so set is he on his own bad way that he doesn’t hate evil.
This morning when I read this psalm, I thought of this man. A man who had been a friendly, sweet and gregarious person as a youth, but who somewhere had turned from that path. He became solitary, self-centered, irresponsible, and so lazy that he believed everyone else in the world was responsible to make sure he got whatever it was he wanted. And if that meant to cheat, lie or even steal from them, that was OK. His moral compass wasn’t pointing in the right direction; in truth, he had no morals at all. He had given in to evil and subsequently ostracized himself from his entire family, all of whom loved him.
They wondered how he could have done this to himself, as well as how he could have done this to them. He was such a fine brother at first, but he changed.
Do you remember what Adonai (God) warned Cain about in Genesis 4:7? He said:
If you are doing what is good, shouldn’t you hold your head high? And if you don’t do what is good, sin is crouching at the door – it wants you, but you can rule over it.”
The reason I am sharing this story with you today is that this could be about any one of us! Sin is always there, like a stalking lion, and it takes very little to turn from the path of righteousness. The world is an evil and cursed place, where sinfulness is not just accepted, but expected! It is so easy to do evil, and so hard to do what is right, and once we choose to do evil it becomes easier to do more evil.
Yes, Virginia- there is a Dark Side.
But we can overcome the darkness with the light of the Lord, the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) which we can receive simply by asking for it, with an open and humble heart that wants to do good and be obedient to the Lord. Accepting Yeshua (Jesus) as the true Messiah God promised to send, we can then find forgiveness for sin and be led by God’s own spirit.
But there is a catch. Before we can receive forgiveness through Messiah Yeshua, and before we can receive the Holy Spirit, we first have to do something: we have to repent. And not just for what we have done, but for all time- we have to do T’shuvah (turn from evil ) and only desire to do only what is right.
To be saved from yourself, you must choose to want to do good: not good as the world sees good, but good according to God.
What does God see as good? It’s simple- love God and love each other. When we truly love someone more than we love ourself, we will do for that person what we would like them to do for us. The “Golden Rule” is a great start, but we need more than that. There also has to be obedience to God’s word, the instructions he gave us in the Torah which define what he sees as “good.” Yeshua said no one is good but God (Luke 18:19), and God tells us many times throughout the Tanakh (Old Covenant) that we should be holy as he is holy; for me, this means that even though God is the only one that is truly “good”, he wants us to emulate him as best as we can.
There will be more for this family of the “black sheep” brother to suffer through. They need to decide how to dispose of the remains, to find out if he even has an estate, and if so what to do if that estate is worth trying to salvage from being escheated to the State he lived in. Someone will have to go through his possessions, and it will be very hard because of all the remorse they feel. There is remorse over the fact that that he did not change his ways and return, as with the Prodigal Son; remorse that he died all alone; and, I am sure some (if not all) feel remorse that they didn’t do more to intercede in order to put him on the right path. I am sure they feel they shouldn’t have lost contact, that despite what he did and what he was they should have at least kept in touch, somehow.
I can tell you that if it were up to me, I would tell them they did all they could. I know that each sibling was lied to and cheated, and some were outrightly robbed. He chose to be that way, and there was nothing more they could have done- it wasn’t anyone’s fault but his own that he ended up that way. Despite our best efforts, we can’t change people. The best we can do is try not to be hurt by them, and let them know that we are always there for them when they want to repent.
I know for a fact from my personal contact with this family that each sibling wanted him back in the family, and I believe their brother knew that.
I pray that by sharing this sad story we can all remember and be aware of how easy it is for anyone to fall from grace. And once we have fallen, it is very, VERY hard to get back on the path of righteousness. Even with friends and family that love you, when you constantly misuse that love you will end up cutting yourself off from what could be the best chance you have to be saved from eternal damnation.
Perhaps, in the last minutes of his life, this poor soul was able to repent and ask forgiveness. We can only hope that he did so- no one knows what the last moments of life are like, and perhaps God, who is so understanding and desiring to forgive, gives us all one last chance. That is a wonderful thought.
Personally, I don’t think that’s how it is so I will do everything I can to stay on the right path! If you know someone who is a “Black Sheep”, try to keep in touch with him or her. Don’t allow them to separate themselves from your life; you never know- they may choose to repent. And for someone trying to get up out of the pit, it really helps to know there is someone’s hand reaching out to grab hold of yours and help pull you up.
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!
PS: Please pray for this family to forgive this man so they can have peace in their heart.