Saturday, July 25, 2020

Prodigal Son

The gospel preached by the modern church is often different from the good news that Jesus proclaimed. Jesus illustrated his gospel with parables. To make them fit the modern gospel, we would need to modify some of his most important parables. The parable of the Prodigal Son is a good example. For the modern gospel, the parable would have to go something like this.

There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate. So he divided his property between them.

Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth on wild living. When his father heard what his son had done, he was outraged. He declared that he could never have anything to do with a son who had behaved so badly. The only way that the son could ever satisfy his father’s sense of justice was to give his life.

After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to suffer badly and his life was a mess. So he hired himself out to care for pigs, but he was so hungry that he felt like eating the rotten food he was feeding the pigs.

When he came to his senses, he thought, ‘My father’s servants are better off than me. Perhaps he would take me on as a servant. It would be humiliating, but at least I would have food to eat. So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with wrath. He wanted to receive his son, but his sense of justice prevented him. A servant ran and told the returning son to stay away until his father had calmed down.

So, the father sent for his older son who was working in the fields. When the older son arrived, the father drew a sword and killed him. He then sent a servant to meet the younger son and tell him that his older brother had paid the penalty for his bad behaviour. The younger servant was a bit nervous about returning to his father, but the servant persuaded him that his father standard of justice was now fully satisfied.

The father told his servants to bring a robe and put it on him. He put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. They killed a fattened calf and had a feast to celebrate the return of his son.

Obviously, this parable is a terrible distortion of the story that Jesus told. This suggests that we sometimes have a distorted understanding of the revelation of God’s character brought by Jesus’ gospel.

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