AG Book Club :: The Prodigal God
I grew up in a Christian home, but it wasn’t until my late teens that my faith in Jesus became its own living, breathing organism. I felt especially drawn to reading the Bible and would return to the stories about Jesus over and over again. But I started to notice a troubling theme in these stories: I would always resonate most deeply with the people and characters that Jesus didn’t like. The opposite was true as well—I felt confused by the actions of those that Jesus would compliment and gather about himself.
For example, I had no idea how to relate to the “woman of the city” in Luke 7, who was so overcome by the person of Jesus that she literally washed his feet with her tears. I felt much more connection to Simon, the man whose house hosted this event. He was a religious man, had hosted a party for Jesus, the influential newcomer, and now felt very uncomfortable by the very presence of the weeping, sinful woman in his home. But it’s the woman who Jesus defends, heals and saves, while Simon is confronted and condemned for his lovelessness.
In the story of The Prodigal Son, I knew that I would never do something so reckless as the younger son. I’d never be so openly rebellious to God, never leave life with him. However, I felt myself surprisingly embittered by the Father’s sweeping forgiveness of the profligate son and sided almost completely with the older brother’s stance, his angry confusion with his father’s behavior. It just didn’t seem fair.
It was hard for me to talk to people about my growing unease. I was an obedient and responsible daughter, a caring friend, active in my youth group, with many signs of a growing relationships with God. How did I explain that I felt like one of Jesus’ enemies? Or at the very least, like someone that Jesus didn’t like?
When I first read The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller, I had two profound reactions to this treatise on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. One was to think, “Ah! It’s as I suspected. My personality, my collection of sins, my experiences are extremely dangerous. I’m spiritually desolate. I am an enemy of God.” But then, it started to sink in that the father in the story went out to both sons, to the returning rebel and to the self-righteous older brother. He cared deeply about both of them, sought both of them, invited both to a feast of celebration. And then I started to feel loved. Deeply, truly loved.
Tim Keller says, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” This has become a kind of theme in my life for the past couple years and I’ve seen more heart and behavioral change than the past 25 years combined. It has, quite literally, changed my life.
I know my reasons for liking this book are kind of intense and personal, but everyone reads a book at a different place and with a different perspective, so I’m interested to hear about your particular response to this book. What stuck out to you? What was your favorite chapter or concept? Anything you didn’t like or didn’t understand? What kinds of thoughts have been going through your head since reading it? Did anybody read it and just think, “meh…”?
Below is my video review of the book and don’t forget that we have a Facebook page if you’d rather leave your comment there. Also, for those of you in Joplin, I’d love to have you join our discussion group at my house. It’s becoming one of my favorite nights of the month, sitting around talking about something interesting with other women and eating delicious snacks. :)
(Photo from A Gentle Woman via Pinterest)