This is at least two weeks late. I apologize to the involved party.
I asked a friend of the family for thoughts about the previous post (see Modern Day Pharisees), and I received a few concerns, which I wish to address below. It was made clear that none of this is to stir up debates or personal conflict, but simply that I asked for and received a different perspective.
(The following is paraphrased and in no particular order. Concerns are in italics, responses are normal text.)
Was the older son actually cheated out of anything? Being older, he gets a double portion, and the younger son just cashed in his inheritance early. And is the younger son being praised? Like in the parables of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin, I see it more as the joy of return than praise for simply doing wrong.
True. I initially thought "cheated" because his brother got the recognition and the party and the gifts for simply showing up, while the older brother who had never really done wrong never got anything. I mean, technically if everything his father owns will be his, he's lost a cow, a ring, a cloak, and some shoes, but it's not his stuff yet and being possessive over possessions never turns out well. Had the older brother taken over for his father, he should have sacrificed to welcome his brother anyway. Plus, the younger brother still has to pay the consequences from his actions- he's used his inheritance and is now dependent on the family to survive.
As you pointed out, it wasn't the wandering that caused the reward, but the return. I agree that it's not a matter of rewarding the wrongdoing, but expressing the joy of finding. Overall, my mistake.
You said you didn't see a clear right or wrong in this parable, but I believe there is one- that it's good to rejoice for others and that we shouldn't judge the lost for what they did to get there. I saw the example from it that both brothers sinned and then turned back to the Father, which is why we should rejoice.
I guess I've been analyzing this by characters rather than by actions. I've always decided the characters were the perfect Father, the sinner, and the "cheated" resenting brother (see above). The father in the story resonates as the only true perfect Father, being God the Father, so I ruled out this character as an example with the thought that I can't be God. Next was the younger son, and when he left, I knew he wasn't the one to try to follow step by step because that would bring me further from God. Sure, this parable is about rejoicing for being found, but I didn't want to relate because I don't want to have to get lost. Still, I'm no perfect human, so ruling out him as the example character was a little harsh. Then was the older son, and I decided it was worse to be like him because the father didn't approve of him, even though I wasn't sure why until recently. Taking this as an allegory meant that I missed the message within. Oops. Thanks for pointing that out. I completely agree with your interpretation.
The "rules" are God's, not our own. We shouldn't act like we are God, but we still have a responsibility as ambassadors to make sure his will is done. Sometimes we have to show tough love when those around us do what we know is wrong. Just because they aren't Christians doesn't mean they aren't responsible for sin. (And then, because I can't paraphrase:)"When asked by those advocating sin, it would be best to say that we understand that it is their decision to do what they do but we also do not agree because the action goes against God’s way."
And here is when I do a giant facepalm for missing the most important part. God's rules. I wrote the last post from the standpoint of disapproving of the Christians who try to call down their own fire and brimstone. I had nothing to balance it with. Knowing people who have expressed belief in something contrary to God's rules, I personally didn't want to find a way to tell myself that I have to be God's ambassador for them, so I guess I took a more lenient stance than I meant. I think our goal is common at this point: leading them to Christ is the only way to get them to respond with a lasting impact.
Confession time: I feel like a hypocrite. I'm always bothered when churches seem to leave out the "sin no more" aspect of becoming a Christian because they focus on outreach more than following through. Writing the previous post, I finally had the chance to empathize and realize that it's hard when you have to focus on salvation more than anything because it's the only thing determining our destiny. Then I went even further and declared all non-Christians sin free, and here I am being worse than what bothers myself.
Also, I meant to add in the last post something I learned in an anti-bullying project, but then I never got around to it. Calling a person a "bully" isn't a good idea because then they associate themselves with the behavior. When you confront a situation like that, you should rather target the action and say they're "exhibiting bullying behavior". Except maybe with less fancy words. The judgement associated with being a modern Christian seems to come from us addressing the problem without regarding the humanity of the situation. We aren't against people, but ideas. (see Ephesians 6:12)
Christians banning religions from the US?...
I'll cut this off here. I'm sorry. That was uncalled for. It was a bold claim with nothing holding it up. It was a blanket statement. It wasn't even accurate, and the whole situation is in the process of cleaning up anyway. It involved people with ties to either religion, and I drew conclusions. Ignore that entire paragraph if you'd like. I tried a little too hard to prove my point. The important thing is that Christians haven't always done the Christian thing in every situation, and being called to hold the world accountable still needs to be Christlike.
The birth order thing was creative, but it's a little too open ended and vague. You can fit almost anyone into each of those categories.
Here I go with blanket statements again. I'm a repeat offender. Please point this out more often. Anyway, I originally thought the younger brother would be like the middle brother, and my imaginary brother would be the youngest, but then I looked up stereotypes of birth order (which sounds bad by itself) and changed my mind to make it fit (which makes it worse). This was my somewhat solution to my interpretation of the parable without a goal, which then led me to a bit more of a mess, but the important part for me is the little bit of truth I also hit. A lot of the time, I want everything to fit together logically, so I oversimplify things, especially people, and then I find an interesting outcome. Oversimplification is messy, and although I appreciate what it does for my numerous bunny-trail thoughts, I forget about those I affect in the process.
Did I miss anything? Is anything misrepresented? Have I put blanket statements in my critique of my own blanket statements? (That would be embarrassing...) Any topic advice or just something you want to tell me? Feel free to comment below.