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The Prodigal Son

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I find the whole Prodigal Son thing to very unfair to the other son. With today's society in general, it feels like the people who do wrong things for much of their lives and then repent are better rewarded than the people who were good all along.

 

I'm an atheist, so I want to hear from the Christians as to what your thoughts on the Parable of the Prodigal Son are.

 

Atheists tend to be very non-judgemental, but I'm in the odd position of being more judgemental than Christians, since I'm a lot more reluctant to forgive.

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I find the whole Prodigal Son thing to very unfair to the other son. With today's society in general, it feels like the people who do wrong things for much of their lives and then repent are better rewarded than the people who were good all along.

 

I'm an atheist, so I want to hear from the Christians as to what your thoughts on the Parable of the Prodigal Son are.

 

Atheists tend to be very non-judgemental, but I'm in the odd position of being more judgemental than Christians, since I'm a lot more reluctant to forgive.

From the Christian standpoint, no one is actually "good"..everyone falls short, including the characters in the parable of the prodigal son.

 

I think most people, whether they are Christian or not, whether they have heard the story before or not, think about how unfair it seems to the older son.  We can all emphasize with him.  We're all a little bit of both brothers, I think -- or maybe a better way of thinking about it is that we're all sometimes prodigals, and we're all sometimes the older brother.

 

I think it's safe to say from the context of the story that the older brother resented his younger brother, and resented the fact that his father still loved his brother even after wandering away, and the fact that his father was celebrating the return.   So I think that the older brother sinned here too in the attitude he held for his brother, and the grace that his father showed to his brother. 

 

We can all be like that -- resenting those who have always lived a selfish, sinful lifestyle, especially when they start to turn their life around.  And when we are like that, then we are not seeing the person for who God created them to be.  We are not loving them the way that God wants us to.   We should be happy when a person begins to turn their life around, and turns it towards God.

 

And although the people who really lived a lifestyle that most would consider "bad" or "apart from God," do receive a special understanding of God's grace and mercy, because they know how much they have been forgiven for, I would imagine that they still suffer consequences for their past behavior, and I'm sure that many of them do struggle with regrets.  But since I don't believe that anyone is really good, then we all experience this a little. 

 

The story here is more about the Father's forgiveness, grace, and mercy than anything else -- and actually the Father in this story offers it to both of his sons.

 

That's my view.

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I find the whole Prodigal Son thing to very unfair to the other son. With today's society in general, it feels like the people who do wrong things for much of their lives and then repent are better rewarded than the people who were good all along.

 

Remember that this is exactly how the other son feels in the parable. He complains to his father that he always obeyed him but his father never celebrated this, but now that his brother has come home, having disobeyed his father and lost all of his money, he has thrown him an expensive party. The father reminds his son that he is always with him, and everything the father has is his, but that it is important to celebrate that his brother has come home.

 

Remember that in the end, the prodigal son is not going to be better rewarded than his brother, and someone who does wrong and repents later is not going to be better rewarded than someone who never did wrong. Both will get the same reward: and eternity with God in Heaven. And if you're Catholic and believe in Purgatory, then the person who did wrong and repented later is still going to have to make up for what they did wrong, either in this life or after death. Say, for example, you have two men who die in the same night. One of them has lived a good life, believed in God and always did his best to serve Him. The other has lived a terrible life, committing all kinds of sins, but repents right before death. Providing that his repentance was sincere, then both men will be rewarded with eternity in Heaven. But before the one who repented can go to Heaven, he still has to make up for all the sins he has committed in his life, therefore he'd have to go through Purgatory. As Catholics, we don't know exactly what Purgatory involves, but all we know is it won't be pleasant. It's a process of purification and temporal punishment.

 

Basically, Catholics believe that whatever sins we commit in this life, we will have to pay for at some point. Christ died for us so that we can be forgiven for our sins and avoid the eternal punishment of Hell, but that doesn't mean we don't have to pay any kind of price for our sins. We still have to undergo temporal punishment. Either we pay the price in this life or we'll have to atone for it in the next.

 

Anyway, that's what Catholics believe about sin and Purgatory and whatnot. Hope that helps a little!

 

EDIT: I'll just add, because Arwen's made some really nice points in the time it took me to type all that up...As Christians, we shouldn't want to see others suffering for their sins. Sure, we deserve to suffer and we will have to suffer temporal punishment for our sins, but that doesn't mean we should be happy about other people suffering. Catholics believe in praying for the dead who might be going through Purgatory, basically praying for them and asking God to make things easier for them and make them suffer less. That's a very good thing for us to do. It'll make the people in Purgatory get to Heaven easier, which they'll be very grateful for. And it's very likely that when you die, the people in Heaven who you prayed for during your life will also ask God to make your suffering less. So it's really a win-win thing...

 

xxx

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Some people have different paths in life, different journeys.  Some people stray away because they have some issues that they have to deal with.  Personalities even play a role (for example: between siblings raised in the same environment).  It's kind of like, don't bash someone else for making different choices than you until you've lived life in their shoes.  Then you may truly understand the pain or confusion in their heart or the void they are simply seeking to fill.  And when the prodigal son returns, perhaps his loyalty in his return will never waver again.  Besides, leaving and returning can sometimes give a person great wisdom and understanding (if we are looking for it).  All we really need is love, and accepting a returning son with open arms is giving them the love that they need.  If I had two sons (or children), I would love them both but also ideally love them as individuals not comparing one with another.  We're born with our personalities and it would unfair to love an easier-going child more than a strong-willed child for example.  But a strong-willed child has much more energy that can be channeled into something really great and important; they are usually naturally braver and more stubborn and these can be used for good or bad.  Just think if you were to be the one who wandered off, do you want to be shamed on your return? or celebrated that you returned and were missed?  Besides, we might be wandering away in other ways not so obvious.  I'm not sure what I think about purgatory, but I do know that God can redeem us here on earth (which is symbolized in the prodigal son story) and we likely face our own consequences on earth as well.

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