The Prodigal Son

James S. Stewart maintains that forgiveness is not the elimination of the penalty of sin but the repair of a broken relationship. [1]  An example is the well-known story of the prodigal son that Jesus told.

A father had two sons.  The younger son asks for his inheritance and left to experience riotous living.  He was soon destitute and was reduced to feeding pigs.  There he resolved to return to his father with the proposal to become one of his father’s servants because he felt he was not worthy to be his father’s son. But his father would have none of that.  Instead he organized a party to celebrate the return of his son.

Stewart also makes a point about this story that most of us have not considered.  He states that the prodigal son of Luke 15 was forgiven “but that does not mean there were not months of slow and difficult readjustment and rehabilitation”. [2]  The bitterness of the brother of the prodigal son who protested the celebration for his brother says there was much that would need to be repaired in this family’s relationships.

Do we think it will be any different as we repair our relationship with God?  Do we think that all we need to do to make our relationship with God work is a one-time confession of our failures and the rest of the time we can continue to do as we want?  So why does our doctrine of salvation teach that?


]1]   James S. Stewart, A Faith to Proclaim, Vancouver, British Columbia:  Regent College Publishing, 1953, p. 62..

[2]   Stewart, p. 62.

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