In 2018, my wife and I met two wonderful young men in San Diego. In just a few weeks, God knitted our hearts together. Since then, they have visited us on several occasions. One stayed with us for a couple of months.

Both have adopted us as their parents. They refer to me as Dad. I have no DNA sons, but these two young men are indeed my sons.

There are many adages that compare and contrast the difference between a biological father and a dad. Our culture has accepted the fact that fertilizing an egg with a sperm does not make a person a dad. We also embrace the fact that paternal relationships can be established in the absence of shared genetics.

Our new sons came to us because they were suffering from both “Abandoned by Father Syndrome” and “Church Hurt Syndrome.” Because of their sexual orientation, they had been excluded from the two most important human groupings, the family and the Church. Without the benefit of these two life-sustaining institutions, they were indeed lost.

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the story of two lost boys. One was lost because he took the world by storm. He asked his father to give him his inheritance, which he received. He then began to live a life of excessive indulgence.

In a relatively short period of time, he was broke. All of the new friends he met during his season of excess had abandoned him.

In the text, this Jewish boy finds himself feeding pigs. He is at the lowest point of his life. He decides to eat a little humble pie and go back home to his father. He hoped that his father would allow him to be a hired hand. He felt he had forfeited the right to be a son.

In that Gospel story, the first boy returns home. His father sees him afar off and rushes to meet him. This father covers his filthy, smelly son (he had been feeding pigs) with a fine robe. He puts a ring on his finger and plans an elaborate party. That’s what real fathers do. They look beyond the behavior of their children and see their real need.

At this point in the story, the second lost son appears. He is upset because he had been a good person all his life. He never disrespected his father. He never left home on partying rampages. Yet, the father had never thrown a party for this second son. This son was “lost in the house.” 

There are many good people who are faithful to worship and are still lost in the house. Notice the difference between the father’s world view and this second son. The father focused on his sons’ needs and not their behavior. The father was motivated with restoring his sons’ futures. The second lost son was focused on himself and his notion of fairness. He did not see his own immediate need, or realize he too was lost.

Our world is suffering from an absence of real fathers, real dads – dads that see their children’s real need and not just their behavior. Dads that seek to restore relationships. Dads that point their children toward a better future and ultimately, eternal life.

The Rev. Dr. Jon R. Black is senior pastor at Campbell Chapel A.M.E. Church in Bluffton.