Nearly every Christian I know likes the story of the Prodigal Son. (Luke 15:11-32) Who wouldn't? It's a beautiful story of love and forgiveness, illustrating that God is always willing to take us back in should we leave the fold.
(Of course, the obvious implications of God's willingness to forgive can also cause problems for those who want to spend their life in riotous living and only come back to God before they die. Stories and verses about God's love and mercy can make sinners comfortable in their sin because it makes them believe that they can always ask forgiveness before they die. A potentially catastrophic error in judgement, to say the least.)
I was thinking about it a little while ago, and I realized (read as: "formed an opinion") that there's a flip side to this story.
If the prodigal son had not come back to his father before he (the son) died, he wouldn't of ever restored his relationship with his father.
Similarly, we cannot go to Heaven unless we get right while we still have time.
If we wait to get saved until we join the ranks of those who are in the nursing home, we may never get saved because we'll always think we still have time.
Anyways, I pointed this out to a friend and he wasn't very favorable towards my potential sermon idea. He appears to be concerned about the fact that I'm using one of Christ's parables for something He didn't intend, which he believes to be rather dangerous.
I feel like it is perfectly acceptable since this sermon idea, conversation starter, etc. is in step with the rest of the Bible. It's not a contortion of the truth; it is true.
My friend, however, went to Bible College and I did not. He's a licensed pastor and I'm just someone who needs to get a sermon-ette together for a youth service at my church.
So my question remains:
Is it appropriate (at least in this case) to use a parable (or any Bible passage) for a purpose other than its original intent?
I'm not asking whether its acceptable to twist the Scriptures. I'm asking whether it's acceptable (at least in this case) to illustrate a truth with a Bible passage that was not intended on being used to present that point.
Here's another example of what I'm talking about.
Recently, I heard a thought provoking message on Moses holding up his hands in Israel's battle with Amalek in the valley of Rephidim. (Exodus 17:8-16)
(Before I tell you about what he preached, I feel it is my duty to let you know that he didn't present this message as truth straight from the Bible. He presented it as something to thing about and something he wanted our opinion on. Please don't think that he just pulls passages from the Bible and adds his own interpretation to them. That's not at all what happened.)
In this message, the preacher tied in the responsibility Moses had in the battle's outcome to the responsibility we, as Christians, have in the salvation of our friends, family, and fellow-man.
He then opened it for discussion -- a rare thing at our church. :)