Being like my dad…

Last Friday in class we reflected on Rembrandt’s Return of the Prodigal Son, and I saw a fresh flash of beauty that has escaped me for a lifetime.  (Don’t you love it when God does that!?)


For the past thirty years I’ve been reading the Prodigal story and asking myself which character I am most like: the ungrateful, younger son of rebellion, or the iron-hearted older brother with an attitude,  (pictured standing at the right).  Sadly I invariably conclude that I have been and will likely continue to be a mixture of both.  But the point I saw on Friday is that we are to be like neither, but like the Father, filled with excruciating compassion and yearning for the return of the boy.  It’s a story about love, tenderness and mercy, and we are to be ever scanning the horizon with the Father in hopeful anticipation of prodigals.

But the real zinger came three days later when Vishal Mangalwadi explained to us: (this will be a loose quote)

“The Moral Majority in America became the moral minority because it had the spirit of the older son, and not the spirit of the Father.  Many of the America’s prodigals know they are squandering their father’s wealth, but they would rather live in a distant land than to return to the home of the older brother.”

I wanna be like my Father: broken-hearted and waiting at the door without an ounce of judgment.


A few our our Justice DTS students helping me celebrate my birthday.

8 thoughts on “Being like my dad…”

  1. You are correct. We are like the Father. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and the God’s spirit dwells in you? If anyone destoys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is Holy, and you are God’s temple.” 1 Cor 3:16-17. God’s spirit dwells in us. We are Holy because God’s spirit is Holy. How can we not be like the Father?


  2. Great post, Don. I was just about to make an entry on my blog about this parable, and lo and behold, I find us on the same page, at the same time! So I decided to post it here.

    I have been reflecting lately on how the older brother, when complaining to his father about the reckless display of mercy shown toward his wayward younger brother, couldn’t even refer to him as ‘brother’, but rather said ‘…this SON of YOURS…’

    The father, with great compassion, replied that it was necessary to rejoice, because ‘…this BROTHER of YOURS…’ was lost, and now was found.

    Isn’t that what we Christians do with one another?

    We are content that God has other children – those SONS of HIS – in other denominations and congregations in our cities and towns. But we deem them wayward and prodigals because they don’t agree with our tradition or interpretation of Scripture. We think OUR group is at home with the Father, but THEY wandered into some doctrinal or practical error that causes us to not identify ourselves with them. We don’t necessarily deny they are Christians, but we all fail to show the world that we are bound to Jesus AND one another in the love of God in ways that provoke and challenge them to deal with the reality of God and Jesus Christ.

    If Jesus prayer for the oneness of his people means anything, it means that He is not content for a people to claim God as FATHER, but refuse to love each other as BROTHERS. That is a false Christianity, and the world despises its presence. Christ said the world would know we belong to Him by our display of love for one another. The world (and all of creation for that matter!) is longing to see that reality lived out in a real and genuine way.

    I wonder what myriad of creative ways our Father wants to lead us into expressing our love for one another in ways that the world can see?


  3. Don, I never wanted to identify with the Moral Majority. The name of it seems so snobbish and exclusive. But I never thought any more deeply than that about why I didn’t want to identify with it. The quote you cite about the MM having the spirit of the older brother resonated inside me with perfect accuracy–that is exactly what I felt but couldn’t articulate. Your writings are so well thought out, culturally meaningful, and challenging on a level that I need to be challenged on. I’m going to start getting on this site and reading every day for my devotions. Also, I don’t know who Sean is from the Feb. 3 entry, but that was also very profound. Thanks to both of you for the “steak” to chew on.


  4. Don-What refreshing I always find ‘in the Shadowlands” !!! What a privilege to pray for you and what God is doing thru you. !!!It is so like our Heavenly Father to be giving the same message to so many saints at the same time !!!I covet your prayers for my health. My doc and I are trying to discover what is causing major erratic blood pressure, plus sleepiness AND then I came down w/a cold that is making the rounds here at countryside. It is hard not to get discouraged, but Shadowlamds always gets my eyes off myself and on the Kingdom. What a goor heavenly father to put you in my path so many years ago !!!-Smiles and prayers and blessings,Janet


  5. I have always thought of the PARABLE OF THE LOST SON as a wonderful example of how God is with us. (It makes me want to cry when I think about it) He is merciful, loving and forgiving. Like the father, I think he is very joyful when we turn back to him or when we finally are saved. I believe it is a sin to be judgmental like the older son. My grandfather was an alcoholic and he did not ask God into his life until he was dying. His punishment was living a miserable life without God. I am very glad he is in Heaven now. We should think that way about everybody and do what we can to witness to them.


  6. When I’m reading this comment which Sean wrote my heart is full of hope.
    Jesus gave us two commandments and sometimes we forgetting the second one. God is our father, but we have brothers and sisters.
    Who they are?

    ” God stays one with everyone who openly says that Jesus is the Son of God. That’s how we stay one with God and are sure that God loves us. God is love. If we keep on loving others, we will stay one in our hearts with God, and he will stay one with us. ” ( First epistle of John 4, 15-16 )

    So we have a lot larger family than we thought.

    PS: Sorry because of my bad english. Greetngs from Sarajevo.


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