An acquaintance recently posted some thoughts about the Parable of the Prodigal Son, sometimes called the Parable of the Two Sons. He tried to make the point that the parable is not about repentance but about the terrible, judgmental attitude of the older brother, which he equated with “professional clergy,” and the loving and non-judgmental heart of the Father. Here’s what he writes:
The younger son did not come back home to “repent”. He came home because he was at the end of his self-destructive rope, only to find that the One he considered “dead” did not hold it against him. He came home in order to survive and be menial servant, but his father receives him as a son.
The parable is no more about repentance than the previous two parables. The emphasis is on the character of the Father (only love) and the contrasted religious character of the older son (anger). It highlights that Father is not the angry, vindictive, retributively just, judge that religion wants him to be.
Unfortunately, he has missed the point. Jesus wasn’t saying that judging sinners was wrong, but that refusing to recognize repentance was the problem. Put another way, Jesus embraced repentant, forgiven sinners, and welcomed them into the kingdom of God. Continue reading