I've been thinking a lot lately about the parables Jesus shared describing the kingdom of heaven. The contrast we see in the parable of the prodigal son, between a life lived apart from the Father and the life lived in the security of the love of the Father, creates in me a secure peace and a longing all at the same time.
The longing is for people to see that conformity is the exact opposite of freedom. God's not looking for people to conform and submit to him because they are afraid of him or even to earn something from him. Religion has made this mistake over and over from day one.
The freedom God gives us, to choose our own path, has a way of exposing the bankruptcy of any attempt to live outside of the life he created us for...To live secure in his love for us and to enjoy the unfathomable depth of that love.
Coming to understand this grace and love that he has for us all is what begins to break down the shame and guilt and fear that keep us from going home. Religion is not home and it leaves us as bankrupt as what looks like out right rebellion. Though like the older brother who stayed on the farm, religion fakes people out and keeps them stuck living in denial of their bankruptcy. It's just a shame/guilt and fear management system seeking conformity to rules. Jesus when telling this story actually told the religious folk standing around that day that those they had determined were rebellious were actually closer to the kingdom them they were. That seems to me to be what this parable was about.