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The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen

“It is the place that confronts me with the fact that truly accepting love, forgiveness, and healing is often much harder than giving it”

The story of the prodigal son is one of the most prominent parables Jesus tells in the Gospels. A young man rejects his father, takes his inheritance, and foolishly spends it. The son finally decides to return home hoping that his father will forgive him and accept him back as servant. Unexpectedly the father doesn’t even wait for an apology. The father runs out to his son and throws him a huge banquet.

This parable is both comforting and infuriating. It’s comforting to see the unconditional love of the father, yet infuriating that the father doesn’t ask for an apology or make him work back his favor. 

A lot of Christians today live in this paradox. They love the unconditional love of God but are irritated when God shows so much love and mercy towards our enemies. We even do not like to accept undeserved grace. Legalism is born from this idea that we must earn back God’s favor and fortune. “One of the greatest challenges of the spiritual life is to receive God’s forgiveness.” Our hearts need not to be focused on searching for God or loving God more. We need to allow God to love us. 

Nouwen spins the parable a bit in this book. We always look at where fit between the sons: are we the lost son that returns or the stubborn brother that doesn’t love? Nouwen challenges us to think about the father. Yes, in the parable the role of the father is the Lord, but God commands us to be like Him. Are you capable of loving like the father? Accepting and forgiving without an apology?