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Reform Magazine | March 29, 2020

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Chapter and verse: Luke 15:11-32

Chapter and verse: Luke 15:11-32

Stuart Dew on the value of proactive forgiveness

I asked ten people what the word ‘prodigal’ brought to mind. Nine said the story of the prodigal son. And most of them are not churchgoers.

‘Prodigal’ is a word not often used in any other context. In my sport reporting days, I once referred to a striker who missed many goal-scoring chances as prodigal. The sports editor struck it out, telling me I was writing a football report, not a sermon – which rather confirms my point. Prodigal is the name by which most of us still identify one of Jesus’ most enduringly relevant parables, although modern Bible translations often call it ‘the lost son’. I prefer to call it the parable of the penitent son and the forgiving father, because that pinpoints its significance.

A number of things happen in this parable that challenge interactions. The son makes a big mistake – leaving home and blowing his father’s money on wine, women and song – but he admits he was wrong. How hard some of us find that. 

Having confessed to himself, the son decides that he needs to go back and say sorry to his father. One of the people in my random survey said this wasn’t real sorrow, it was more what my mother would have called cupboard love – affection pretended for some personal gain…

Stuart Dew is a United Reformed Church lay preacher

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This is an extract from an article that was published in the March 2020 edition of Reform

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