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The Distant Heart (10 of 11)
Series: Parables - Surprising Lessons on the God-Life
Introduction: The story of the Prodigal is one of Jesus' best-known parables. It is also one of the least understood. It is not that it is hard to understand. Like all of his stories, this one is simple, straightforward, and true to life. But we still often miss the point. We miss it because we are distracted.
Who can hear this tale and not get caught up in the story of the Prodigal's foolishness. He is the stereotypical rebellious adolescent who doesn't know how much he doesn't know. He reaps what he sows and learns a valuable lesson in the process. His is the classic story of the great turnaround. If only all prodigal children could get so smart so quickly!
If the Prodigal does not grip us, then surely we can't help but be touched by the agony of the waiting father. All parents can empathize. We know what our kids don't. When we tell them that their punishment hurts us more than it does them, it's true! Almost all parents would gladly suffer hurt and disappointment for their young, if they could and if they knew that would be best for them. But we also know that sparing our young short-term pain sometimes only increases the long-term problem. We know we have to let them go so they can learn some lessons for themselves. But that doesn't mean we wouldn't prefer it could happen some other way. Watching your child learn the hard way is sometimes necessary, but always hard. Not knowing for sure how it will turn out is the hardest part. We can appreciate the relief of the waiting father when the wandering child comes home.
But here is our problem with the Parable. This is where we stop. Read like this, the Parable is a neat, nice, sentimental story of the difficulties of parenthood turning out all right. The prodigal returns. Dad forgives him. Everybody lives happily ever after. The only problem--this is not the story Jesus told. Our preoccupat ...
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