so… what are you expecting? what story is in your head that isn’t the true story? thanks sonia.

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About jonbirch

animator, illustrator, character designer, graphic designer. music producer/recording musician. co-owner of PROOST. proost.co.uk
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31 Responses to 1007

  1. Kim says:

    Eek, am first to comment but this one is profound and requires a bit of thought so sadly I can’t do it justice quite yet. I think I always expect the worst, and the truth is the outcome usually isn’t that bad.

  2. Scott Wilder says:

    Someone just read the new Rob Bell book? This is one of the central illustrations of the book as well.

  3. jonbirch says:

    yes. my friend sonia did and she’s using the idea for a service and wondered if i could do a cartoon on it… so i i did. :-)

  4. the most beautiful story ever imo …

  5. jonbirch says:

    it is a very beautiful story.

  6. Behave like the owner’s flesh and blood — that’s what you become. Behave like a slave who has to earn his keep — that’s what you lock yourself into being?

  7. soniamain says:

    Jon, you are a star, just what i had in mind. Thank you so much:)

  8. Tiggy says:

    I was just reading this parable last night in my friend Mark Townsend’s book ‘The Gospel of Falling Down’. He was stressing that there are two lost sons and that the one who stayed at home was unable to receive grace because he was so intent on earning his worth. He felt he deserved what he was given because he had been ‘good’. It has a simlar message to the parable of the workers in the vineyard, where the vineyard owner refuses to differentiate between workers on the basis of how hard they’ve worked. They both point to the Kingdom of God not being a meritocracy. Very subversive, both then and now.

  9. Jay says:

    The parable should be called the parable of the “Prodigal Father” :)
    Also I think BOTH the sons were in “hells” of their making as they could not relate to the Father as sons. One tried to survive on hog feed and the other tried to “slave” his way to his inheritance. The father gave them the choice that they wanted to make. But never disowned them! :)

  10. Hugh says:

    I recently read that we get this all wrong; it isn’t about the sons at all but is The Parable of the Loving Father.

  11. jonbirch says:

    some great comments… hopefully this will all make good food for sonia’s service. :-)

  12. Tiggy says:

    I just noticed your comments above the cartoon…..and I dont’ understand them.

    ‘what story is in your head that isn’t the true story?’ Eh??

  13. Dawn says:

    what was the point of the stofy of the prodigal son?

  14. soniamain says:

    Hi Tiggy, Rob Bell’s take on it ( or at least my understanding of what he is saying!) is asking the question is the story we have in our head, the story about our life, what we think god wants for us, is this the same story god has for us? are we hearing and living his story?. The sons in the prodigal story had their own stories/ ideas about how their father would react to them, what their father thought of them, but they weren’t living out the gracious story their father actually had for them.

    Sorry not as good an explanation as rob bell!- but I liked what he said, i liked his angle on it and it got me thinking – a lot!.

  15. Tiggy says:

    Ah, now I understand! Cheers.

  16. subo says:

    great cartoon & discussion

    I kinda get both sides, I know we are responsible for opening our hearts to God’s love, and letting love work in us

    I also feel we’re asked to form loving communities, that are open, welcoming, able to find a place and a role for the new comer (given pride of place with the father’s ring and cloak), and where we are not immobilised by roles

    did anyone else see that TV prog recently, about a London Vicar, who felt the time had come to tell his congregation about his sexuality? the love and tenderness in that church made me wish I lived in London

    I sometimes feel I’ve ruffled ‘an elder son’, when trying to work with someone who needs to be in control, who’s held their role for a long while and can’t imagine giving it up

    so for me it’s about recognising how damaging our need to control can be, and to committing ourselves to building loving communities, making space for the outsider

  17. Tiggy says:

    I have a habit of unintentionally ruffling the feathers of men who are concerned about their public image, partly because I have no sense of hierarchy. People like my church leader and a certain local councillor friend of mine who are the only two people to delete my Facebook posts.

  18. Patrick Oden says:

    “Because oppression always has these two sides,” Jürgen Moltmann writes, “the liberation process has to begin on both sides too.”

  19. Tiggy says:

    That sounds interesting, Patrick – could you expand on that please? Not sure if I’m being dense (didn’t get much sleep last night), but it’s not self-explanatory to me.

  20. Patrick Oden says:

    Tiggy, I’m sure it’s not that your being dense. More that I just threw a seemingly random quote out there because it came to mind when I saw this quote, and I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about those themes.

    Basically, it’s the idea that we think of liberation just being for those who are oppressed. Those who struggle or who are lost need the obvious grace. But the oppressors, those who judge, those who are caught up in their dominance or anger or ego or whatever, need liberation too. But it’s harder to see. It’s harder for those who are lost in their domination or oppression to see they need to be liberated as well. Because all that fuming, it’s separating the brother from the father.

  21. subo says:

    nice, like it Patrick, also seems a similar idea to Sonia’s, about us experiencing the graciousness of the Father – i.e., both the subjugated and the subjugator can experience liberating grace?

    do we need to experience this graciousness to be able to be a loving community?

    (& how do you love the oppressors?)

    and what about groups where it’s not quite the dynamic of Oppressor & Oppressed, but just those who like their roles, and those who put up with the status quo because they think it’s loving to tolerate such divisions?

  22. Tiggy says:

    I’ve read some interesting stuff in Liberation theology about this, but it relates to any kind of oppression – one to one, group, organisational etc. I just happened to be reading some Black Liberation Theology because my friend lectures in it. and he felt it would help me with understanding my anger. Restorative justice is also not just for the oppressed, but for the oppressor. The Truth and Reconciliation committees in South Africa are also about reconciling the oppressor. I have very mixed feelings about forgiveness. I know it’s damaging to try to forgive too soon and we have to question our motives in doing so. Sometimes we just want to make everything alright or we feel bad ourselves and in forgiving we’re actually seeking forgiveness from the other person. In forgiving too soon we can suppress our anger and turn it against ourselves. I think there has to be reconciliation, but I’m still dealing with this issue.

  23. Patrick Oden says:

    “how do you love the oppressors”

    That’s the trick. Grace extends both ways. But it can never excuse. The oppressor can’t keep oppressing.

    Maybe the less charged words would be liberation of the dominant and dominating. The status quo issue is huge in churches, but that’s why I think we have to see that people like the fuming brother or others are also in need of liberation. Attitudes like that can be barriers to discovering the fullness of Christ in one’s life. If we put up the status quo, we are letting them stew in their distance from God. That’s not very loving. But we can’t turn around and oppress/dominate in turn.

    Tiggy, forgiveness has to come also without excusing or justifying behavior. And it really requires God’s grace because we have to turn over our hurt and frustration, our identity, to God. It’s the Spirit’s power that transforms us into becoming the kind of people who can forgive, because withholding forgiveness can be its own form of oppression/domination.

    It’s not about suppressing our emotions in regards to deep hurt, like you said. It can’t be that, because that will just continue to do harm. We have to find forgiveness and grace that’s honest and true. Miroslav Volf has a great book on this, fairly readable, called Free of Charge (as well as other more difficult books)

    This is why it’s not about simply reconciliation but actual liberation. We have to find real, holistic freedom. Otherwise the fuming continues to burn.

  24. Tiggy says:

    Well, you say ‘The oppressor can’t keep oppressing’, but even if they aren’t still oppressing, the harm they did can still be there in the continued consequences of their actions – the damage and losses they brought about. I don’t even understand how forgiving fits in with all that, especially when they couldn’t give a damn. It just seems irrelevant. I was put under pressure to forgive by those who didn’t want me to rock the boat – it was all part of their attempts to silence me and be a good girl and not take legal action. For me, I either understand and accept what’s happened or I don’t understand and I don’t accept it. If I do understand then there’s no need for forgiveness – my understanding of the person transforms my relationship with them so that forgiveness is no longer an issue. If I don’t understand, then forgiveness becomes meaningless. Well that’s how it is for me – maybe I’m weird.

  25. Patrick Oden says:

    Tiggy, I can’t say that you’re weird, because you’re most likely right.

    I know this might be overlong a comment, and maybe a distraction, but I’m going to try to summarize what theologian Miroslav Volf says about forgiveness. This isn’t a final answer, because I think an answer for you or for anyone has to come from the Spirit. Also, any any attempt to silence you or pressure you is a form of oppression, absolutely so. It has to be something that arises between you and Christ, through Christ. Not something you feel pressured to do in order to be a “good girl.” That kind of attitude is obscene and as, I think, antichrist. Anyhow, here’s my attempt to summarize how the cross helps us forgive (note that Volf experienced persecution as a Christian in the former Yugoslavia, and his books are about forgiveness in the context of the ethnic violence in that area):

    For the oppressed, the crucifixion brings with it three effects on a wronged person as they remember this sacrifice. The first is that the “Passion of Christ requires us to recognize that the grace of God… extends to every human being.” As even the oppressors, even our oppressors, are included, our perspective on their crimes is radically shaped by the work of Jesus in offering them forgiveness and in suffering on their behalf for their sins.

    Second, “in the memory of the Passion we honor victims even while extending grace to perpetrators.” A big issue in letting go of past crimes or oppression is the assumption that in letting go we will be betraying the memory or reality of victims, whitewashing the past so as to live in some artificial present that seeks to get along without seeking real and thorough justice. This offends our sense of righteousness, silencing the cries for restitution and ignoring the plight of those who suffered.

    But, on the cross, in the forgiveness of the cross, we are not faced with a whitewashing of injustice nor an attempt to distract us from the reality of the oppression which a person, or whole people, have as part of their identity-shaping experience. In ignoring or dismissing this reality, another oppressive act takes place, one that dismisses the person’s experience as irrelevant for the sake of some supposed higher cause.

    With the cross, however, God acknowledges the injustice—both of the crucifixion and indeed all that the crucifixion represents. The crucifixion is, indeed, not a distraction but an indication of how seriously God takes evil and the effects evil perpetuates through the misdeeds of men and women upon other men and women. It is a confrontation of this evil. But in this confrontation, the Son takes on the sins of the world. “In shouldering the wrongdoing done to sufferers, God identifies it truthfully and condemns it justly.” In confronting the sin as sin, God shoulders the burden of the call for justice, taking on the burden in his own identity so that the sufferer can acquire a new wholeness knowing that their oppression was not ignored or dismissed.

    With this new identity, those who are wronged can be free to wholly forgive, as they can then let go of the debt that the wrongdoer owes them, no longer having this oppression as part of their inherent identity. Volf writes, “The memory of the Passion is a memory of returning the wronged to themselves as cherished children of God empowered to emulate God in their own, human way.”

    This leads to the third effect that the memory of the Passion accomplishes. In reminding the sufferer that God has offered grace to the oppressor, and in empowering the sufferer to live in a restored identity based on the confrontation of the cross that acknowledges the need for justice, those who suffer are free to forgive and in this forgiveness open the sufferer to be truly reconciled. Reconciliation, however, is never a one-sided event.

    For true reconciliation to take place, the perpetrators must themselves “genuinely repent” from their wrongdoing, confessing their own real misdeeds, acknowledging the debt they own to both the victims and to God. It is only in the cross that this is possible, as the burden of being victimized is otherwise too consuming to forget and the burden of victimizing is too horrible to admit. Reconciliation becomes possible in the freedom that “Christ has reconciled both the wronged and the wrongdoers to God, to themselves and to each other.”

    In an oppressive context, it is the victims who remember and the victimizers who forget. With the work, of Christ, however, the end of memory for the oppressed involves letting go their memories, with these being taken up by the oppressors. The victims let go as they turn to Christ, finding freedom from their consuming memories which seek to impose a victim identity upon the person. The oppressors turn to Christ and in his justice they see the reality of their own misdeeds, taking up the memories that the oppressed have let go. In the context of a liberating transformation, the oppressed are able to forget while the oppressors remember.

    The persecutors absorb their own deeds, taking on themselves the responsibility and memory so as to participate in reshaping of the communion. In the work of Christ, however, the memories of their own misdeeds does not consume the oppressor, but rather as they take up the memories of their own crimes they are able to seek grace and forgiveness from Christ and be open to grace and forgiveness from their victims. The oppression, then, is not dismissed or ignored, but processed in communion with each other, and with Christ, so that the memories create a bond of grace rather than a festering resistance.

  26. Ruth says:

    A friend showed me this yesterday and it was a real coincidence as I’d been reading the same passage yesterday and last night.

    I’d been a Christian for most of my life but for the last few years became disillusioned with faith and wanting to do things my way despite always knowing the presence and grace of God in my life. This week I had a bit of a meltdown (a long time coming) and realised that my problem was that I had abandoned the Father who loves me and the relationship I have with Him. I can honestly say from experience that my life doesn’t make sense without God at the centre of it despite having the job I want etc and it took an extreme situation to shock me and make realise it (I’m pretty stubborn so I see it as God’s grace). I picked up the Bible to read it for the first time in a long time and the Parable of the Lost Son (and the Loving Father) came to mind and I searched for it. I was overwelmed when I read it and said the words: ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

    It broke my heart to know the overwelming grace of God despite everything I’ve done and I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way when they read the passage. No sin is too great, no embarrassing mistake unconquerable. When read alongside Romans 8v28 it made sense to me: For we know that in ALL things (good or bad), God WORKS for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose.


  27. subo says:

    how good to come back and find this discussion still going – it’s all so relevant
    thanks Tiggy & Patrick, and good to read yr thoughts Ruth

    i think there’s a huge myth hiding out there about forgiveness, that somehow, if you’ll only forgive, you’ll get healing

    don’t quite know where this comes from, as Jesus didn’t. he forgave his murderers, and still got crucified

    also, he sometimes challenged injustice, sometimes seems to ask us to speak up about injustice, and yet on the cross he said ‘they didn’t know what they had done’, – this might seem like just like just making excuses, and yet, because it’s Jesus who said this, I think he meant it

    this lets me sometimes speak up, and sometimes remember the other’s hurting as well, and may not know what they’re doing

    I want to forgive because I don’t want anything to happen to those hurting me – as though by forgiving I might be able to break the link of cause and effect, and I want forgiveness myself. though I can’t stop things hurting me anymore than I can stop people around the situation protecting those who’ve hurt me

    I’m working on speaking up, though have to battle through a lot of fear, as my past experience has been of just being shouted down and further excluded. I seem to think if only I could be perfect, then people would stop hurting me, but they don’t, and I don’t need to wear myself out taking responsibility for others thoughtlessness

    one of the hardest things I’ve struggled with is finding my story denied, while others are supported. I’d so love to find a Christian group where our feelings were given time and understanding, instead of the usual blanket cover up and board judgements

    sadly sometimes it’s all just too much, but then I remember little things God’s done to show me he cares, and despite the mess in my life, the complex web of triangulated relationships and loss of genuine connection with people, I do know God cares

  28. Tiggy says:

    Sorry for not responding to the post yet, Patrick. I was way too tired last night and again tonight as having trouble sleeping lately. Will read it through again tomorrow – Thursday. Thanks for posting it. x

  29. serenaeta says:

    Thanks everyone for all your thoughts. I’m really struggling at the moment after being on the receiving end of some nasty church politics. It’s been very helpful to read about other people’s thoughts and experiences of betrayal and forgiveness.

  30. subo says:

    Hi serenaeta, trust things will improve, and trust your gut feelings, sometimes churches seem to find it difficult to be healthy, loving places. despite Jesus having made it plain he wanted us to be a celebrating, fun loving, accepting, non-judgemental community without static leadership

    and sadly, when a few people have too much control, other people will get hurt
    but it helps me knowing all that controlling stuff, is just not God inspired

  31. Pingback: Q marks the spot – Treasure Map 32 (May 2011) | Quaerentia

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