One of the beautiful secrets about the parables of Jesus is that they throw off different insights, depending on which character you choose as your POV (“point of view”). The parable of the good Samaritan teaches us important and different things if we imagine the story with ourselves in the role of the beaten-up man, the robbers, the priest or Levite, the innkeeper, or the Samaritan. The prodigal son could be reimagined with you in the role of the bad boy, the good boy, or the father.
Every time I’ve heard or read the prodigal son parable in the past, I’ve put myself into the play as the bad boy. The gospel message is all about the forgiveness of our sins, and I love the idea that God keeps taking back a foolish sinner like me. I must admit, though, that I need to think of myself in the role of the crabby brother more often. How easy it is for church people to imagine that they work harder, live cleaner, and are more deserving than the prodigals.
Ever looked at the story from the POV of the father? How hard it is for Christian parents to see their own children become prodigals. How can you not blame yourself? How can you not continually revisit your parenting history and wish you could have a do-over? How hard it was for the father to let his foolish son take off with his money and to wait. Christianity Today online tells the story of famed Minneapolis Baptist pastor, John Piper, who led his church actually to excommunicate his son Abraham. Some called for the pastor’s resignation, arguing that a man who couldn’t even keep his own children in the faith couldn’t be trusted to shepherd the entire flock. Others pointed out that Adam and Eve rebelled against the perfect Parent, that even God had prodigal children. Adam and Eve, of course, had prodigal children too.
Are there prodigal children in your family? My heart hurts for you. Pray for them. Love them unconditionally. Refuse to enable their dysfunctions. Wait patiently. Watch for God’s surprises. Huddle for warmth with other parents. Trust the power of the Word. Hope always.
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