Who’s the Hero, Here?

On an Internet that offers ideas on just about anything, it has been proposed that the Star Wars movie series is actually the history (or dream, or even a self-promoting embellished recounting) of R2-D2.  After all, that little astromech appears regularly, often saves the day, and offers a continuity that many of the other characters cannot.

Elsewhere in entertainment, Amy, a character on the TV show, “The Big Bang Theory”, once pointed out that Indiana Jones wasn’t actually a necessary role in the plot line of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.1

Along those same lines (although you’ll need to bear with me to find the connection), the song, “Always Have, Always Will“, by Avalon, starts out like this:

Part of me is the prodigal
Part of me is the other brother

This would be a reference to a parable that Jesus told, as recounted in Luke 15:11-32.  Many people know this as the parable of the “Prodigal Son”, but a quick check of other English translations shows that this section is also sometimes labeled in variants of that theme:

  • The Parable of the Prodigal Son
  • The Lost Son
  • The Son Who Left Home
  • The Story of the Lost Son
  • The Prodigal Son
  • Parable of the Lost Son
  • The Parable of the Prodigal and His Brother

However, it is possible that these common descriptions for this parable might cause us to think that the son who returned to his father is the “star”.  After all, except for cases like “The Lord of the Rings” or “The Legend of Zelda”, we usually expect that anyone appearing in the name of a book or movie is the hero.

For those of us who have gotten away from walking with God (that is, straying far from the path for which He lovingly created us), we can relate to that “prodigal” son.  There’s nothing wrong with celebrating that we can come home, and be welcomed in (no matter what we’ve done).  Furthermore, there is certainly a change of direction that we must take (called “repentance”) in order to return to God.  However, like Carly Simon’s song, we might become so vain that we start to think that this story is about us.  There is a risk that we will see ourselves in this story, and dwell on our sins: whether remaining miserable because we sin when we don’t want to, or even “celebrating” that we sin just like the son in this parable.

There’s also a possibility that we become like the son who remained home, and think that our dedication to God makes us more important to Him.  (Yes, we’re important to God, but so is everyone else.  I guess that this is one of the few cases where everyone can truly be special!)  We probably don’t want to admit it, but there can be a temptation for followers of Jesus to start to think that they start to merit God’s favor (rather than being indebted to Him for everything).

As Avalon sang (in the song mentioned above), we may indeed demonstrate the shortcomings of both brothers.  However, if we stop after acknowledging that, I think that we miss out on the rest of what this parable has to teach us.

When we think about it, the actual hero of this parable is the father.  He is the one who put up with the foibles of both sons.  He is the one who welcomed back the younger son, while explaining – in a little bit of “tough love” – the reality of family love to the elder son.  He is the one whose love we are to emulate, understanding that we may never fully reach the point where we can demonstrate the depth of love that our Father in Heaven has for us, even as we aspire to get closer and closer.

Since Jesus didn’t write the headings that appear in modern translations of the Bible2, perhaps we should reconsider the label.  What if this was the “Parable of the All-Loving Father“, or the “Parable of a Father that Loves His Grumpy and Rebellious Children“?

Maybe if we did that, we’d remember who the real hero is in this story.  And, since we know that the father in this story shows the grace and mercy of God, maybe we’ll remember to be children who are more responsible and grateful.  After all, God is holy, just, and loving – with or without us.

  1. No endorsement of any of these movies or TV shows is implied. 
  2. To be clear, I appreciate those who have helped to organize the Word of God into sections, to provide guidance and faster lookups, but we should be cautious about elevating those labels to the same level as the original writings that were inspired by God. 

9 thoughts on “Who’s the Hero, Here?”

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