I've always believed "prodigal" meant "wayward". However, Keller titles his book, The Prodigal God which doesn't exactly fit my perception of God according this definition. According to Keller, wayward is not at all the meaning of prodigal. He insists it "means to spend extravagantly." Now there's something to think about.
I've already rethought The Parable of the Prodigal Son in my Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training. With the children, we refer to the same parable as The Forgiving Father instead, so that the essential element of the parable, The Father is the central focus. Though I believe in sin and and depravity of man, in my heart of hearts, I understand putting the emphasis on God's Great Work rather than our falleness to be a far more effective presentation of the gospel.
Keller takes Forgiving Father to an even higher plane for me by accentuating that He outgave his child to win him back. Maybe you have heard the saying, "You can't outgive God." The Prodigal God draws the prodigal son back with his extravagant kindness. How compelling is the image of the Father longing, scanning over the horizon and then breaking into a run, arms flung wide, to embrace the son who was lost? The Parables of The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin, and the merchant in The Pearl of Great Price leap to mind changing my thoughts more charitably towards the lost son in light of the Prodigal God.
My favorite sermon ever was given on this very subject by a humble man, Joe Green, studying in Bible College allowed to speak at a small Sunday night service. I think Joe's words instructed me as profoundly as Keller's. Joe suggested the crux of the parable hung on the characters of the servants. I could not for the life of me see where he could go with that point as he narrated the story in his simple way. When he got to the servant's role near the end, I believe Joe got it right. Joe suggested the turning point of the lost son's thoughts were on the servants, the way His Father treated them with such care. The son examined the respect and dignity offered by his father to his hired hands and knew with more certainty than ever before, home with his father was better than anywhere else in the end.
These are my thoughts for this day. Any thoughts you have on this to add?
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