Mission: Living Out The Parables


Anglican minister and world evangelical leader, John Stott, was without doubt one of the most careful bible expositors of all time. His careful analysis of the text always seemed to give fresh and new insight into even the most familiar of passages of Scripture. That certainly has been my experience again today rereading perhaps the two most familiar stories of the New Testament, in fact, perhaps of all time, the parables of The Prodigal Son and Good Samaritan.

Stott draws out parallels and contrasts in both parables to show how in Jesus’ teaching, as in his life, that the need for evangelism and social action were given equal validity and priority. I wanted to share with you his insights, all quotes are from his book THE CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN.

“.. Both depict tragic situations, which, it is implied, are displeasing to God. God does not want human beings made in his image either to become demoralised and lost in a far country or to be assaulted and abandoned half dead in the gutter. His desire is that both the lost and the battered be brought home” p346 

In both parables the central character is a victim of sin. The Prodigal Son is the victim of his own sin and the traveller in the Good Samaritan is the victim of other people’s sin. Jesus is showing that we as humans are both “sinners” and ” sinned against” both “villain” and “victim.” Therefore, Christian mission addresses both the problems of personal sin and social sin which blight humanity. 

In both parables there is a rescue from the impact of sin. The sinner, the prodigal son, is rescued from the impact of his own sin and the traveller on the Jericho road, the sinned against, is rescued from the impact of the sin of others. The impact of sin on our lives requires forgiveness and reconciliation and compassion and good works. So the message of personal salvation and the carrying out of good deeds are both integral to mission of the Kingdom of God, one without the other is deficient and inadequate to address the impact of sin on peoples lives. 

“… in both there is a display of love. In the parable of the prodigal son we see the love of God, as the father welcomes the boy home; in the parable of the good Samaritan, we see love of neighbour for neighbour, as the Samaritan binds up the victim’s wounds. Moreover, in both cases love triumphs over prejudice” p347 In authentic Christian mission the love of God is proclaimed to sinners and the love of God’s people is demonstrated to the sinned against and is done without prejudice. 
In both parables there are those who resist the call to be involved with transforming the impact of sin on others. The elder brother doesn’t want to offer the gift of forgiveness to the sinner and the priest and Levites don’t want to express God’s love to the victim of sinways practical ways. Sadly, we meet both groups among God’s people today. There are too many denominations and church members who largely either resist the Church being involved in evangelism or social action, or at times both!   

Here to me is Stott’s “killer” point, “each of us resembles the prodigal; each of us should resemble the Samaritan. First, we face our own sin, and the we face the world’s sufferings. First, we come in and receive mercy, and then we go out and show mercy. …. Let us not divorce what Christ has married. We have all been prodigals; God wants us all to be Samaritans” p347

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