Africans love stories. Sometimes they retell Bible stories
in an African way. So The Parable of the Prodigal Son becomes The Parable of the
Merciful Father with an emphasis on God’s boundless love and forgiveness. An
African reading or interpretation of the story offers additional insights
related to the African values of community and unity. Due to his wild and
dissolute living, the younger son is outside the unity of his extended family
circle. This creates separation and incompleteness. When the older son complains
that he has not been rewarded for being faithful, he fails to understand his
father’s explanation that he is already part of the extended family community,
that he is already on the "inside." "’Son, you are always with me, and all that
is mine is yours" (Luke 15:31). The love and compassion of the father is so
great that he wants to immediately bring his marginalized younger son back
inside the family circle. An Oromo (Ethiopia) and Kipsigis (Kenya) proverb says
No matter how skinny, the son always belongs to the father. Here the core values
of community and forgiveness come together.
An added African touch is found in the painting of this
prodigal son story in the Life of Jesus Mafa Series from Cameroon in West
Africa. Against the background of traditional Mafa huts and hills, the whole
family runs out to welcome the younger son when he returns. Both the father and
the mother warmly embrace the almost naked boy. The emotion-filled mother
expresses special joy and excitement. The son is welcomed back with "prodigal"
love by both of his devoted parents. The family circle is complete again.