Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 139. Parable of the Prodigal Son
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 139. Parable of the Prodigal Son

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

From a Girardian perspective, the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) encourages forgiveness, even to the point of allowing oneself to be a victim of scapegoating. The story begins with the younger son asking for his inheritance. The father divides his "living" (15:12), which describes the property that is the source of his livelihood, between his two sons. The elder son's lack of objection suggests that he, too, does not care whether his father lives. Both sons regard their father's property (his "living") as their own possessions. Later, the older brother would find no room in his heart to forgive the sins of his younger brother. Instead, he would be self-centered, self-righteous, and judgmental, reflecting his narcissism, arrogance, and sense of entitlement.

The prodigal son takes his inheritance and squanders it. When he returns humiliated and destitute, his father does not condemn him. Rather, the father runs to the son, embraces him, and welcomes him back to the family with a grand party. Conventionally, fathers were expected to walk slowly and erect, and sons were to approach fathers with deference. However, the father's behavior conveys love and forgiveness.

The father also lovingly forgives his elder son, who had just berated the father for welcoming back the prodigal son. The father gently explains the rationale for celebrating the younger son's return and reminds the older son, "all that is mine is yours." By forgiving both sons, the father offers the possibility of familial reconciliation that could not happen if the father were judgmental and punitive.

In ancient Hebrew culture, fathers generally asserted their patriarchal authority and demanded respect for their social position. However, using one's power and position to enforce obedience and deference does not generate loving personal relationships. Loving personal relationships require mutual respect as individuals, not respect based on social standing. Social standing is grounded in the scapegoating process, while loving personal relationships are unrelated to victimization. Presumably, the sons, as all young children, had once loved their father, and the father's showing love for his wayward sons was the only way he could reestablish a loving relationship with them.

Go on to: Part 140. “I Have Not Come to Bring Peace, but a Sword”
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