This article was originally part of a discussion group. I have edited the first couple of paragraphs to make the interchange readable.
My friend, you and I seem to have a lot of common background. While there is disagreement with how you view the story of "The Prodigal Son", I agree with your assessment. Based on some of the things you've touched on, if you and I were to have a private conversation we might find many such things in common. I mean that. And I would enjoy such a conversation with you. But I wonder, if you are seeking a unity based on such agreement.
You see, though I think view of the story is valid, I am refreshed by the insights of our brother, whom you oppose. Do you think the sense of the Father's heart that he shared with us contradicts what Jesus was teaching? I don't. For remember, there were TWO audiences that heard the story: the Pharisees AND the downtrodden. As the story revealed the self-righteousness of the religious mind of the Pharisees it ALSO (and primarily, I would think) revealed the Father's heart toward those who had long considered themselves "too far gone" for God to care for them. Their faulty beliefs were fueled by the teachings of those self-righteous men, so that the exposure created through the story became to them words of life and it declared to them that the Father sent His Son BECAUSE they were too far gone.
Y'all know what? Had I been in the story I wouldn't have been the younger son, I would have been the older, self-righteous brother that stayed out in the field refusing to go in! That was indeed a good picture of Israel as they sought God in view of their OWN righteousness. I would have been so mad if some UNDESERVING person got such special treatment while I, the good kid, was overlooked for all the wonderful things I did! :) Believe me, I have viewed sinners that way. The miraculous grace of Christ has caused me to see that I am no different whatsoever than those I used to despise! For His grace truly is bestowed upon the "undeserving" ... and it has made us fully deserving as HEIRS together with Christ. :)
You know what else I have discovered? When the subject of beliefs came up, I somehow got all noble about what I believe. Do you realize that that is how the world responds? Just look around you and you will notice otherwise apathetic people going all noble and taking a stand on politically correct issues. We have the sinners (ex. "Big Tobacco") and the righteous (ex. "Truth" advocates). I'm not a smoker and am not advocating taking up the habit (remember, I was the good son :), but the picture reminds me that religious contention comes from the world and NOT from the life of God.
If I were to tell you some of my REAL beliefs you might start praying for me! hahaha! I'll give you a few. During my day I believe that God is not important, and that I should be treated better, and that those "morons" and "idiots" out on the highways should get out of my way! Need I go on? :) I have difficulty going all noble about my beliefs anymore.
The gospel declares the true righteousness of God ... and He has a name!
Now, if anyone really wants to discuss certain views of the Bible with me I have no problem with that. But MOST of the time (but not all) I have found that something ELSE is really going on in those who are wanting to discuss a doctrine.
Sometimes there is pure fear behind the need to know what a Bible verse is really saying, and sometimes a simple unraveling of a messed up interpretation is worthwhile. Other times it becomes obvious that there is an agenda to prove that "I'm right and you're wrong!" Worthless pursuit, huh?
We believe in Him because of Him. We believe who He is because we are of Him and not because we learned a doctrine. Unbelievers can learn the doctrine and can learn the ins and outs of arguing the point. If I think that I can teach you the doctrine of who Jesus is then I am believing the lie that flesh can receive the things of the Spirit of God.
We discover the life of God within those born of God because they cannot NOT believe that Jesus is the anointed of God (Christ). That was the message of 1 John. That's how we know those of God. It is our HERITAGE to know God and His Son. If we listen with the ears of God that we have been given we may be surprised at what we hear! :)
Love, the shovel