God is the Prodigal Son: Reinventing Christianity’s Most Beloved Parable (Lectionary Reflection)

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Lent 4C — Sunday, March 10 — Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

 

God is irresponsible.

Hopelessly so.

In the well-worn parable of the prodigal son, it seems Jesus is telling us God can’t be bothered to consider the consequences of actions — God’s or those of sinners.

God is feckless.

Ridiculously so.

This is the Gospel of our Lord.

Yet, to our minds, God’s love, demonstrated in this parable, seems rather immoral. It doesn’t sit well with us. It casts aside right and wrong. There are no consequences. There are no lessons to learn. (Read the companion piece on the parable of the lost shepherd here)

God seems to appear in this story in the role of the doddering old fool, manipulated by the half-cooked apology of the prodigal son to forget all that has passed. Not only this, but the father ignores the harm done to the other son, the one who stayed home, followed the rules, loved him without vacation.

And the father does harm the other son. The father’s indiscriminate love to the prodigal wounds the brother, as it rightly would us all.

But what if God isn’t the father in this story?

What if God instead is the prodigal who seems so irresponsible?

What if God is the God who comes to us in the disguise of those we despise, those who have hated and killed us, rejected us and abandoned us, those who annoy and frustrate us most, those who are excluded?

In the guise of the sinner, the debauched, the prostitute, the unclean, the enemy, the unsavory, God comes to us and challenges us to participate in a radical, irresponsible hospitality that turns the rules of polite society upside-down.

And if God comes to us as this, how do we respond? As the father does, subverting social norms and opening his life to the chaos the prodigal brings? Or as the brother does, maintaining society’s values but closing off his life to loving the Other? 

In this parable, Jesus is asking us whether we will entertain angels, even if the angels look to us like demons, like exactly what we fear and loathe. He is asking us whether we can overcome our prejudice and the oppression of religiosity to open our arms enough to embrace the Other, the other who is actually our closest kin.

Jesus once said that if we have seen the thirsty, the oppressed, the imprisoned, the lame, the blind, the abused, the neglected, then we have truly seen him. Not some metaphorical carbon copy, seen him, Jesus our Lord.

And Jesus invites us to open our banquet tables to him, wherever we find him.

This story is prefaced in Luke with concerns from the religious elite about the company Jesus kept at table. This wasn’t a matter of simply transgressing social norms. To the people of the time, the fellowship you kept, who you dined with, determined who you were. To the people of the time, because Jesus supped with the unclean, the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the worst of the worst, Jesus, too, was the unclean, the tax collector, the prostitute, the worst of the worst.

Jesus isn’t the father.

Jesus is the prodigal.

He asks us whether we will accept him, even if he reeks of what we think is unwashed sin.

He asks us whether we will embrace him, unclean and unsavory to our tastes, with the lavish grace of a banquet.

He asks us whether we will run out to meet him when we see him lost, alone, bedraggled, and abused; whether we will be eager and expectant to do the irresponsible thing of living out the Good News.

He asks us whether we, like the father in the story, have the generosity to accept him as he appears; or whether we, like the brother, will demand that God not be so irresponsible and insist that God come to us only in the ways we find acceptable.

______

Every so often, I like to take a parable and rework it from an unconventional angle to see where it leads. This is less an exegetical take on the parable and more an exploration of its characters and themes, an avant-garde reading of the Parable of the Sons in Luke 15.

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About David R. Henson

David Henson received his Master of Arts from Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, after receiving a Lilly Grant for religious education for journalists. He ordained in the Episcopal Church as a priest. He is a father of two young sons and the husband of a medical school student.

  • George Harris

    Definitely falls into the category of kicking-myself-why-didn’t-I-think-of-that! Love it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/christoph.fischer Christoph Fischer

    It seems to me you’re overlooking the parallels to the two preceding parables (the lost sheep and the lost coin), where Jesus always makes it clear that the one who is “lost” is the sinner. In the parable of the Prodigal, the “lost” one definitely is the son (the father even says so), so why would you identify God with the son?

    • http://www.facebook.com/betsy.hodgesspeedclark Betsy Hodges Speed Clark

      “why would you identify God with the son?”

      Perhaps because Jesus identifies so closely with “the least of these”? What we do or do not do to the unloved, the un-lovely and the unlove-able we do or do not do to him. When we receive the prodigal, we receive Jesus himself.

      • Jonathan Pelton

        There is a difference between identifying with and identifying as. God most certainly identifies with humanity in general and with all humans individually, that was part of the point of the incarnation; but God is never to be identified as sinful. The prodigal son in this story is clearly represented as engaging in a sinful lifestyle, which causes his downfall and the circumstances in which He needs to repent. We should not identify God as sinful.

        God loves us, He walks with us, enters into the mess of life alongside us; He is not above getting mud on His clothes, or taking on the consequences of our choices. God will never abandon us, He will never turn us away or turn away from us no matter what we’ve done; but He will never engage in sin with us; He will never make Himself one with Sin.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639904125 Tom Paine

    David I like where you go but would push you in asking in your interpretation, what role the older brother really plays? I surely do think that God comes to us in ways that we wouldn’t expect. As the ubiquitous 90s song asked, “What if God was one of us?” But Jesus was trying to get the religious elites to accept those he was eating with. That means he was playing the role of the Father, not to Prodigal. He was the reconciler. The Prodigal’s solution isn’t some half cooked apology to get back in as a son. He wants to be his father’s slave. And the older brother has to get past his hurts to expend grace as well.

    • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

      Jesus was also the boundary-crosser, and certainly the prodigal ate with the disreputable. If you’ll follow the link in the text (I think on the word doddering), the WorkingPreacher podcast has a great thought on whether the prodigal’s apology is genuine.

      Certainly, your take is the more traditional. What I’m attempting to say, by tying this story with the least of these passage, is that those that Jesus dined with *are* who Jesus was. So, Jesus isn’t just the one who accepts the outcast. He becomes the outcast.

      • Jim

        I like Kenneth Bailey here, it is not an apology. He does not “return”/”repent”. The Arabic translation of this passage says, “He got smart”. He comes home, looking for job training. Looking to earn some money to try to pay off the squandered inheritance. The radical act is the father not shunning and casting out the one who left.

      • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

        Actually, the translation would probably more fit the scenario of manipulation if your argument is that the son is unrepentant, but just got wise to things.

        Earning money to pay off the squandered inheritance? This is the definition of a functional slave. Job training? This reads a very modern sensibility into this parable and I think misses even the point of traditional readings of the story.

      • Jonathan Pelton

        Yeah, I’m going to have to agree with Otm on this one. Your idea is interesting; and, as always, its good to try on new perspectives and new ways of interpreting stories we are familiar with. The problem with casting God as the prodigal is that it not only identifiy’s God as one who is with sinners, but as one who is Himself sinful.

        “He asks us whether we will accept him, even if he reeks of what we think is unwashed sin.” I do think that God asks us to accept all people, even those who reek; and even if it means getting the dirt of the consequences of their sins on our clothes. But it’s important that we be unafraid of experiencing the consequences of other people’s sins, but not engage in the sin itself which bore those consequences. Gal. 6:1

      • http://www.facebook.com/unorthodoxologist David Henson

        What’s interesting is that we assume that the prodigal son is an awful sinner, when the text is ambiguous on this. It only indicates that the son participates in reckless/wild/riotous living/against norms (the very thing the religious elites accuse Jesus of).

        It is the son who stayed who accuses him of engaging in prostitution. He believes the prodigal is sinful, but it isn’t an assumption necessarily based in reality. The prodigal was in a distant country. The brother has no way of knowing how or what the prodigal did while away. So he assumes the worst of the prodigal.

        The problem is we assume a person’s sinfulness, like the elder brother and like the religious elites did with Jesus, rather than assume that person represents or brings God to us. We see ourselves as that sinners’ salvation rather than that sinner bringing us to salvation.

        This is the kind of thinking I am pushing against in this reading of the parable.

      • ryanjpugh

        The text is not ambiguous on whether or not the younger brother is sinful. The sin is not necessarily the wild living, although it is clearly that. The sin is in breaking relationship with the father. Everyone listening to Jesus understood this, just like every listening understood the sin of the older prodigal son.

        That is a huge piece that you are just ignoring for the sake of creating your own philosophy, or, as you put it, “reinventing Christianity’s most beloved parable”. Reinventing scripture.

        You write: “Yet, to our minds, God’s love, demonstrated in this parable, seems rather immoral. It doesn’t sit well with us. It casts aside right and wrong. There are no consequences. There are no lessons to learn.”

        While I can get behind the idea of a “prodigal God” in the sense that he “wastefully” lavishes love on creation, we often miss the reality that while God will always love us because God is love, his invitation to relationship with him is surely not unconditional. .

        Relationship with the father is conditioned on our response to the call of Christ to lay down our live, on our obedience, on our taking on the identity of the father.

        The father’s relationship, in Jesus’s parable, is dependent on both of the sons accepting the identity of the father. As the younger son returns home, he must set aside his apology and his plan for eating as a hired servant. He must instead receive the ring, robe, and sandals – the livelihood and identity of the father. He must lay down his identity in order to be in relationship with the father. And the older son must lay down his identity of always following the rules in order to be welcomed into the celebration and given his true identity as a son of the father.

        Obviously there is much that I find concerning about your post, not the least which is that God is found sinners. That is simply not scriptural, as God is incarnated in Christ and Christ now incarnates the church.

      • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

        God is not found in sinners?

        Then God is found in none of us.

      • ryanjpugh

        Show me in the scriptures where Christ dwells in one who is not following him. You can’t find it.

        What you will find is that Christ dwells
        in the family of followers who have exchanged their identity for the father’s identity, choosing to obey the will of the father by laying down their lives for one another.

      • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

        Show me the one in whom God dwells and I will show you a sinner.

      • jonathan pelton

        you’ve driven the conversation onto a side point here; of course God dwells in sinners, for God dwells in all of us. The point is that God Himself is not a sinner; He is with the sinner, He is in sinners, but He is not sin; and He is not sinful.

      • jonathan pelton

        you’ve driven the conversation onto a side point here; of course God dwells in sinners, for God dwells in all of us. The point is that God Himself is not a sinner; He is with the sinner, He is in sinners, but He is not sin; and He is not sinful.

      • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

        No, actually, you are arguing the side point. This is the point of this reading, which you have repeatedly failed to see and listen to when I attempt to explain it to you. Which either means you have an ax to grind or you aren’t comprehending what I’m saying or believe you know my writing better than I do.

        What you say above is exactly what I say here:

        “In the guise of the sinner, the debauched, the prostitute, the unclean, the enemy, the unsavory, God comes to us and challenges us to participate in a radical, irresponsible hospitality that turns the rules of polite society upside-down.”

        You have agreed with me. Your over-investment in this piece is striking.

        My guess is that you are still attached to a notion of God that is a Transcendant Other. I am not.

        Certainly the traditional reading of the parable bears this out too. I never said it didn’t. What I’ve said is that this reading causes the kind of reaction (to the same theological concept) that the original parable must have to Jesus’ audience.

        The reaction that says, “GOD IS NOT LIKE THIS!”

        It is ironic for someone who likely has such a high view of God that God is still boxed. God must be this way. God must not be that way.

        When you argue this way: “He is not sin; and He is not sinful” I am not entirely sure who you are arguing against.

      • Sigmund Gordon

        Indeed.

        The follower has faith. He believes the promise. His only righteousness is in Christ.

        The unbeliever rejects the promise and remains unjustified despite any good works.

      • Pastorsrb

        You cannot consider this parable in isolation from the rest of the chapter. This is the third parable about something being lost and then found. To suggest that God is the prodigal ignores this context. (How is God a lost sheep or lost coin?) The point of the parable, however, is to reveal the true nature of the Pharisees, who considered themselves the faithful ones, who objected to the consideration Jesus gave to those who were prodigal in their faith (from their perspective). The idea of entertaining angels is not found in the text, but must be planted there by the reader. Such eisogesis does injustice to the integrity of scripture.

      • tmartins

        If you go back and substitute God/Jesus/Angels as the prodigal son, us as the father, and the “perfect Christians” as the good son, then the parable becomes twisted and doesn’t make sense. You need to rethink this one, and not confuse people. Let’s rewrite the entire Bible, based on your perspectives and interpretations. I don’t think so, and you don’t make any sense! Pastorsrb, below, understands the point of these parables.

      • ryanjpugh

        So Jesus was a sinner and a tax collector? Not sure about that…

  • http://www.facebook.com/TerryMonson Terry Monson

    One theologian believes Jesus is the sacrificial calf.

  • AnnasGrammie

    This parable is about repentence. The Father welcomes the return of His son just as he welcomes our return. The older son had the joy of living with his Father’s blessing all along.

  • Wendymac55

    What if God is the prodigal? Karl Rahner speaks of God as prodigal– imagine how God squandered everything in creation, wasting purple on iris, yellow on finches, red on nightly sunsets–and most of all, wasting God-self in human form, in Christ–and Christ emptying himself in the squander of human likeness…(Cynthia Bourgeault speaks of this in Wisdom Jesus)

  • http://www.facebook.com/SantiagoSideros James Mace

    Don’t they teach logic anymore? Just because Jesus identified with godly people who were marginalized does not make all marginalized people godly.

    The Matt 25:40, 45 “least of these” are “My brethren,” i.e., godly Israelites, for, as Jesus said elsewhere, those who do the will of the heavenly father are His brother/sister/mother. Fictive covenantal kinship is dependent on godliness.

    As Christoph pointed out, the preceding context of two parables (the lost sheep and the lost coin) indicates the proper reading of the Prodigal parable stands contrary to yours. The logic of non-contradiction should apply, i.e., both good exegesis and yours cannot both be true.

    There is no Scripture that says Jesus comes to us represented by ungodly people. Only a combination of distortion of scriptural context and illogic has produced this abominable display. Too clever by ten thousand.

    • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

      I think that’s a severe misreading of Matt 25. Nor do I say that all marginalized people are godly. What I am saying is that our response to marginalized groups and people says a great deal about whether *we* are godly.

      • Jonathan Pelton

        You’ve missed James’ point here, David, and are concentrating your response on a sub-point. James’ point is that “Jesus doesn’t come to us represented by ungodly people.” You are both right in saying that not all marginalized people are godly; but in this instance, the prodigal son is clearly represented as immoral, and therefore ungodly. Also, david, you failed to address the concerns James brought up in his third paragraph, about context.

        Again, you are correct when you say that “our response to marginalized groups and people says a great deal about whether *we* are godly.” and the traditional reading of the parable certainly backs that up; but not in the manner that you’re suggesting that it does.

      • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

        Again, we disagree on whether the prodigal is clearly represented as immoral. Your disagreement here seems to stem from this.

      • Grandmother Angri

        Religion has logic?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1336645694 Bob Brooke

    It’s the father’s house. (Ps. 122:1)

  • http://www.facebook.com/joshcgould Josh Gould

    I like the angle you work here and I can appreciate the thought provoking, but I wonder how this can be when the prodigal tells his father he wishes he was dead. Does Jesus say this of us? or of his father?

    All this seems moot anyways when you consider that the purpose of a parable is to find yourself in it. Am I the prodigal? Am I the older brother? Am I the father? Am I all of them? Which character resonates with me and how can I alter my behaviour to one of love?

  • http://twitter.com/micahjmurray Micah J. Murray

    I did your avant garde reading. Always cool to think about familiar stories from a fresh perspective. I wrote last year about how this is really the story of the “prodigal father”. But your take is even more fresh, so that’s very cool.

    http://redemptionpictures.com/2012/09/10/the-prodigal-father/

    • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

      Loved your take and thoughts on it, too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Andrew-Hendrikse/655522222 Andrew Hendrikse

    Hi David, Thanks for this wonderful shift in an old establish view of this parable…I’m going to use this twist along with a few other fresh perspectives of seeing God on Sunday morning when I lead our small home Church here in Cape Town , South Africa. I’m also going to show this short video by Peter Rollins that you might enjoy…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcEp87EzcFA

    • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

      Great! I hope your church finds it meaningful.

  • Mowages

    Yes! Yes! I love this!

  • Jonathan Pelton

    I see where you’re going, and, again, I like the basic message you’re getting at; but I don’t see this passage as having room for that reading. The greek word for “wild living” or “a loose life” is Zoan asotos; zoan means life, and strong’s (i don’t have access to my better Greek references at the moment) defines this as dissolute or profligately. Webster’s defines dissolute as “indifferent to moral restraints; given to immoral or improper conduct; licentious; dissipated.” and profligately as “utterly and shamelessly immoral or dissipated; thoroughly dissolute.” If you really want to make the text jump through hoops you can maybe argue that there’s a difference between immoral and sinful; but that’s a real stretch. Additionally, the parables that come right before and after also concentrate on God’s love and grace, in which the traditional interpretation fits nicely.

    I think that you did touch on an aspect of this parable that we sometimes overlook and that actually fits nicely with the message you’re going for. God’s grace sometimes doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. In one sunday school class I was in recently, we characterized God as annoyingly gracious because his grace forgives sins that we in our selfishness and self-rightouessness don’t think should be forgiven, and saves people who we don’t think deserve to be saved. God’s love reaches out and brings in those that we see as dirty, the broken, the insignificant, the weak, the foolish; and can be an affront to those we see as being clean, put together, responsible, educated, strong, and important. God’s love is subversive.

    • Jonathan Pelton

      sorry, I didn’t mean for this to be posted in this section of the thread.

    • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

      What’s funny, Jonathan, is that I too checked Strong’s and found its definition a wonderful metaphor and description of God’s transgressive and immoral — by human standards — love. In ministry, one thing I have found to be true: when the “elder brothers” are confronted with God’s love, they believe it immoral and sinful and shameful and scandalous.

      The difference between you and I are shades. I see God in the sinner. I’m not sure you do. I see the sinner as offering something important to the “righteous.” I’m not sure you do.

      • Jonathan Pelton

        “I see God in the “sinner.” I’m not sure you do.” Wow, that’s strongly worded.

        There’s a difference in saying “we perceive God’s actions to be immoral” and “God’s actions are immoral.” The first is rooted in our fallible and incomplete human perspective over and against God’s perfect divine perspective. If God is so much bigger than us, then it is inevitable that our concept of “good” and His will not align. Where they don’t, we have to allow our understanding of “good” to mold around God’s. So I’m fine with saying that God’s actions may seem to be immoral by our standards; but I have deep theological concerns if you are trying to say that God truly is immoral.

        You are correct that God dwells in the sinner; and you would also be correct to say that those who have been identified as sinners have much to teach those who see themselves as righteous. However, Jesus portrays the prodigal son as not only seeming to be sinful, not only an affront to cultural sensibilities, or simply marginalized. Jesus portrays the prodigal son as being actually sinful; for the definition of asotos is not “seeming immoral, improper, or against cultural convention” it is “immoral, dissolute.”

        God may surely seem immoral, He may surely and flagrantly break our cultural sensibilities; but He is never actually immoral.

      • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

        Like I said and explained earlier, I do not think Jesus portrays the prodigal son as sinful, but allows the brother who stayed to do so. It certainly makes sense narratively within the story as well. The word you are translating is accurate, but you color it. It also connotes, following the theme of the story, wasteful and wildly extravagant (which is the love of God and also the meaning of prodigal!) and indulging in pleasures and vices (which is the accusation frequently leveled against Jesus). It is a parody, and is revealed so through the response of the son who stayed.

        I get that you want to take a stand on God never actually being immoral (the our ways are not God’s way), and it’s a good way to justify some of the atrocities God commits in the Scriptures. It is also is a meaningless point and a theodicy.

        But when you make that stand, you are no longer engaging the story but with your own principles which you will not cross. Which is fine, we all have them. I think part of the issue here is that perhaps I am speaking in metaphors and a post-structural/post-modern sensibility, comfortably, and you are speaking in literalism and modern/Enlightenment sensibility. So it is no surprise that this reading rankles you. Your issue isn’t that this reading can’t be accurate. Your issue is that this reading cross your fundamental understanding of God. Part of the reason I wrote the piece this way is to get at that exact reaction — the God cannot be this way! response. This would have been the response of the original hearers of this story. As I have admitted, it is an avant garde reading that seeks to provoke that original response. Not so that people will believe that what I say is right or true or the only way, but so that we can perhaps experience the shocking nature of God’s transgressive and incarnational love. This piece is intended to be performative, not informative or educative.

        That you have responded, and have continued to here and on social media, on this out of all my posts, given our shared history in the same church, accomplishes a primary reason for my writing this. An interesting question to ask is, Why did this piece compel you to engage this way? Or maybe this is just the first piece of mine you’ve read. Who knows?

        In other words, you seem to want this post to be a referendum on the theological point of whether God is immoral when this is not what I wrote or what the post is about. For some reason, the way you are reading this post has hit on something that is important to you. It is in these points of fracture and dissonance (the differánce as Derrida terms it) that we begin the process of deconstruction, and I believe, of exploring God.

        Still, I will say that if God does not come to us as the prodigal, then God does not come to us at all.

      • Jonathan Pelton

        To be honest, this is one of the first posts of yours that I’ve read. And this is the way I discuss. If something doesn’t make sense to me, then I grind and grind and grind on it until I can find a way to either break through the problem, or let the problem break me.

        To me, your post seems to be experimental: “let’s forget about the ways we’ve heard this parable before, and try to think about it in a new way.” I’m fine with that. I think that’s a healthy thing to do; we should always be going back to Scripture to allow it to re-interpret us. Sometimes there
        doesn’t seem to be much there; other times we gain tremendous new insights.

        My wife and I were talking about your interpretation and she saw it in a different light than I did; one that took me by surprise. It lies along the same lines as an interpretation that Josh Gould offered. What if God isn’t anyone in the story? God presents us with the sinner, the other, the enemy, as you have said, and we have a choice as to whether we will respond as the father did, or as the older brother did. Translating asotos as simply irresponsible as opposed to immoral helps in this interpretation, but isn’t necessary. I still don’t think that this interpretation does justice to the context in which the passage is found, but it is valid as far as the story itself is concerned.

        On the other things, I think that we are too far apart, theologically, to meaningfully discuss much more without an extensive back discussion. We would have to discuss our
        concepts of divinity, of who God is, of what salvation means, the nature of good and evil, of God’s self-revelation, how we view Scripture etc. before we would really be able to dig into this much more effectively. I do feel that you are judging me as a person, my beliefs, maturity, and character based only on a few blog comments, and, especially given our history, that doesn’t make me feel very good; but maybe I’m wrong.

        One last thing, sorry for posting so much on other people’s threads. I wasn’t trying to hijack your blog, it simply seemed that the discussion wasn’t going very well, and I was trying to re-direct them to stay on topic. I shouldn’t have been so presumptuous.

    • Grandmother Angri

      So religion isn’t logical?

  • Bronwyn Mitchell

    Thank you for your exploration of this parable. It certainly gives a new perspective on an old story. I am going to raise some points you make in a lay led congregation service tomorrow – Uniting Church in Australia

  • Valerie

    Hi David, I am a prison chaplain and I will preach both views – traditional and yours. When I first started prison work, the pain living in many of the men and women inmates almost overwhelmed me. Jesus gave me view of his crucified face telling me their pain was his pain. He became sin for us. Part of their suffering lies in unforgiveness of the evils perpetrated against them – almost all those I talk to were abused by others, by themselves and are now abused by our legal system. To see God as suffering and as a beggar living their pain and asking for their love, I hope will let them see God as One who is closer to their sad and desperate lives than they can ever imagine – then perhaps the prodigal’s father’s lavish love can make sense. Thanks you for your interpretation and pray for me. Val

  • Jonathan Pelton

    As I’ve reflected over this parable over this past weekend+, I see more of myself in the older son. I can get jealous of the “younger sons” who seem to be having the time of their lives; I can also get over-protective of something that isn’t mine. Sometimes I see people doing things and get this sense that they’re tearing my church apart, when it isn’t my church at all. I can look for validation in the “work” I’m doing for Dad. I think that I’m also scared of being lost. It’s not so much with behaviors as it is with beliefs; I’m scared that I’ll drift away into the far country and never come back.

    I think I need to understand God’s love more deeply.

    • http://twitter.com/DavidRHenson David Henson

      I identify here with you a great deal. I am very wounded in this way. I do not trust God enough to be the prodigal son. It’s one of the reasons I admire the prodigal son, and wouldn’t that be an interesting angle to tackle this from as well: the prodigal son trusts the father more than the son who stayed. This is why I am challenging *myself* with reading the parable this way. When I read Scripture, I practice Lectio Divina usually and this is how this parable has been speaking to me lately and what it has been trying to teach me. It’s tied up in family dynamics and my coming ordination, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/vtlebedev Vladimir Lebedev

    It borders on foolishness to come to a story to tell it what it shoud tell. Imagination is a great thing but it must come along the storyline, not against it or not twist it. If you want to encourage the acceptance of the despised and unworthy – this motif is in Scripture and there are planty passages on that. But do not sacrifice any story on the altar of your concerns!

  • yippeekayay

    God’s actions can only seem immoral to someone whose “morality” is anthropocentric. If God is the entire source of morality (as he is), it is entirely illogical to call him immoral (or reckless, feckless, irresponsible or any other of those cute humanizers you used). The simple truth is that God is not a man. So when you strive to reduce him to one you are in fact making him out to be what he is not. Why not start by explaining what you mean by “morality”. What is it that drives your understanding of right and wrong? Is it not your adulation of Collective Man? Tell me you don’t somehow believe in the notion of “progress”, in the idea that God is not the same yesterday, today and forever as he’s said he is. If that’s not your position, it might behoove you to find another lexicon. The one you’re using is the same one used by the unabashedly anthropocentric theophobes on the left who run the establishments of our “politically correct” “post-Christian” society. Or wait, maybe being part of the Establishment is your goal…

  • http://www.facebook.com/diane.roth.7169 Diane Roth

    yeah. what IS riotous living, anyway? I think that finally, I end up with God being the prodigal one, which is more traditional, but I think it’s very fruitful to go where you go along the way. For example, to re-interpret the “terrible” idea that the prodigal is bad because he wasted his whole inheritance. The idea that to “save” is good and to “spend” is bad. So, you have me re-thinking some of my assumptions, which can’t be a bad thing.

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