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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lost Sheep vs. the Lost Son

This evening I had a conversation with a young man I was like a father to in his early years.  I talked with him on the phone and he was extremely bitter because I have not made more of an effort to keep in touch with him over the intervening years.  This got me to thinking of two parables of Jesus—the Parable of the Lost Sheep and The Parable of the Lost (Prodigal) Son (Luke 15).  In the first instance, a good shepherd leaves his ninety-nine safe sheep and goes looking for the one lost sheep until he finds it.  In the prodigal son story, the father at home sees his returning lost son “while he was still a long way off.”  The father “was filled with compassion for him, he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”  The son in desperation had returned from “a distant country.”

For the first time this evening I saw the Lost Son story in a new light.  Why didn’t the father—like the good shepherd—leave his other son who was safe at home and travel to distant parts in search of his lost son?  We often view the father as having great love.  But should not this great love have sent him to distant parts looking for his son?  (If he could not go personally, he could have sent a search party.)  Perhaps it’s just a quibble, but on this particular evening I am compelled to ask the question—in what situations is it right for love to be proactive and when is the preferred course to hold back and remain reserved?

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