Is the Parable of the Prodigal Son solely about God's grace?

Question:

Could you please speak on the parable of the prodigal son? I had a family member who has been in Christ's church her whole life saying that repentance has nothing to do with this parable. She focuses solely on the father's loving compassion as being the whole point of the parable, and while I know that that is such an important lesson to take to heart, I thought the son's humble repentant change of heart was an equally important lesson. Wasn't the son's repentance what caused the father so much joy because his son had repented and though he was dead in his previous unrepentant heart was now alive because of his repentant change of heart? She said I read it wrong and need to read it again because she said the son's repentance played no part in the father running out to bring his son home and celebrate having his relationship back with him. I am now very confused and concerned I may be missing the point.


Answer:

You did not miss the point. Your family member demonstrates that she doesn't read her Bible for what it says, but only looks for things that support what she believes. Distorting the teachings of the Bible is a far too common problem (II Peter 3:15-16). See: Discipleship and Salvation. Jesus specifically summarized the Parable of the Lost Coin and introduces the Parable of the Prodigal Son by saying, "In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Luke 15:10).

While the father runs out to meet his son, what is being ignored is that the father did not come after the son while he was squandering his money in sinful living. It wasn't until the son had already both changed his mind and returned that the father welcomed him back home. Without the repentance, there would have been no welcome.

But the point of all three parables is that every person is important to God, including the sinners who return to God. This is in stark contrast to the Jews who shunned those they saw as sinners and would not make any move to encourage them to return. Understanding this is important to understand the fourth parable in this series: The Parable of the Unjust Steward.