“The father should have beaten his son.”
Simone’s shocking pronouncement was met with murmurs of agreement from her classmates. Though she was the most outspoken of my middle school English class, she clearly wasn’t alone in her opinions.
Parable of the prodigal son
These East Asian students had just finished reading the parable of the prodigal son, from Luke 15, for the first time. In great detail, we had talked about each part of the story – how the son left his father’s home, wasted all his money on parties and gambling, and ended up in the mud with the pigs – finally leading up to the dramatic ending of the return home to his father’s arms.
With much prayer and anticipation, I then launched into what I expected to be a good discussion on the powerful illustration of a father’s love and forgiveness. But when I asked whether the father in the story was a good father, the students’ answers surprised me.
“No, he wasn’t a good father,” James responded quickly. “He shouldn’t have let his son leave home.”
“He shouldn’t have given his son money,” Sarah reflected, shaking her head.
“The son is very foolish. He will do it again,” predicted Lisa, brow furrowed in concern. “And the father is not strict with him, so the son didn’t learn anything.”
That’s when Simone chimed in confidently with her opinion. “The father should have beaten his son.”
Earthly Fathers vs. Our Heavenly Father
Coming from a culture that demands unquestioning submission to authority and inflicts harsh consequences for disobedience, these 14 and 15 year old students couldn’t get past the glaring issue of the son’s rebellion. The obvious moral of the story to these kids was that the son needed to be punished. The message of forgiveness was totally lost on them. Unconditional love was something they had never received from their own fathers.
What’s your view of the heavenly Father? Do you see Him through the lens of your own experiences? Are you too caught up in your own guilt to receive His grace? Or will you accept His freely offered, undeserved, unconditional forgiveness and love?
“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.” (Luke 15: 20 NLT)