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Monday, December 31, 2007

Atonement Part 1: The Parables

I've been sudying the atonement lately. It seems that quite often parables are used to help explain the atonement. What I'd like to do is get a collection of parables together so that we can discuss them and how they help in our understanding of the atonement. If you know of a parable that aids in understanding the atonement, please add it in this post.
We will reserve discussion of these parables to a different post that will be coming soon. Be sure to title your atonement parable so that we can refer to it easily when we discuss them.


Robby C said...

Here are three that I've run across so far.

Parable of the bicycle as told by Stephen E. Robinson
As my wife and I talked about her feeling of inadequacy and her feeling that she couldn’t make it, I recalled something that had happened in our family just a couple of months earlier. We call it the parable of the bicycle.
After I had come home one day, I was sitting in a chair reading the newspaper. My daughter Sarah, who was seven years old, came in and said, “Dad, can I have a bike? I’m the only kid on the block who doesn’t have a bike.”
Well, I didn’t think I could afford to buy her a bike, so I tried to stall her by saying, “Sure, Sarah.”
She asked, “How? When?”
I said, “You save all your pennies, and pretty soon you’ll have enough for a bike.” And she went away.
A couple of weeks later as I was sitting in the same chair, I was aware that Sarah was doing something for her mother and getting paid. She went into the other room, and I heard “Clink, clink.” I asked, “Sarah, what are you doing?”
She came out and showed me a little jar all cleaned up with a slit cut in the lid and a bunch of pennies in the bottom. She looked at me and said, “You promised me that if I saved all my pennies, pretty soon I’d have enough for a bike. And, Daddy, I’ve saved every single one of them.”
My heart was filled with love for her. She was doing everything in her power to follow my instructions. I hadn’t actually lied to her. If she saved all of her pennies, she eventually would have enough for a bike, but by then she would want a car! Her needs weren’t being met. So I said, “Let’s go downtown and look at bikes.”
We went to every store in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Finally we found it—the perfect bicycle. She got up on that bike, and she was thrilled. But when she saw how much the bicycle cost, her face fell, and she started to cry. She said, “Oh, Dad, I’ll never have enough for a bicycle.”
So I said, “Sarah, how much do you have?”
She answered, “Sixty-one cents.”
“I’ll tell you what,” I said. “You give me everything you’ve got and a hug and a kiss, and the bike is yours.” She gave me a hug, a kiss—and the sixty-one cents. I paid for the bicycle. Then I had to drive home very slowly because she wouldn’t get off the bike; she rode home on the sidewalk. And as I drove along slowly beside her, it occurred to me that this was a parable for the Atonement of Christ.

The Mediator as told by Boyd K Packer
There once was a man who wanted something very much. It seemed more important than anything else in his life. In order for him to have his desire, he incurred a great debt.
He had been warned about going into that much debt, and particularly about his creditor. But it seemed so important for him to do what he wanted to do and to have what he wanted right now. He was sure he could pay for it later.
So he signed a contract. He would pay it off some time along the way. He didn’t worry too much about it, for the due date seemed such a long time away. He had what he wanted now, and that was what seemed important.
The creditor was always somewhere in the back of his mind, and he made token payments now and again, thinking somehow that the day of reckoning really would never come.
But as it always does, the day came, and the contract fell due. The debt had not been fully paid. His creditor appeared and demanded payment in full.
Only then did he realize that his creditor not only had the power to repossess all that he owned, but the power to cast him into prison as well.
“I cannot pay you, for I have not the power to do so,” he confessed.
“Then,” said the creditor, “we will exercise the contract, take your possessions, and you shall go to prison. You agreed to that. It was your choice. You signed the contract, and now it must be enforced.”
“Can you not extend the time or forgive the debt?” the debtor begged. “Arrange some way for me to keep what I have and not go to prison. Surely you believe in mercy? Will you not show mercy?”
The creditor replied, “Mercy is always so one-sided. It would serve only you. If I show mercy to you, it will leave me unpaid. It is justice I demand. Do you believe in justice?”
“I believed in justice when I signed the contract,” the debtor said. “It was on my side then, for I thought it would protect me. I did not need mercy then, nor think I should need it ever. Justice, I thought, would serve both of us equally as well.”
“It is justice that demands that you pay the contract or suffer the penalty,” the creditor replied. “That is the law. You have agreed to it and that is the way it must be. Mercy cannot rob justice.”
There they were: One meting out justice, the other pleading for mercy. Neither could prevail except at the expense of the other.
“If you do not forgive the debt there will be no mercy,” the debtor pleaded.
“If I do, there will be no justice,” was the reply.
Both laws, it seemed, could not be served. They are two eternal ideals that appear to contradict one another. Is there no way for justice to be fully served, and mercy also?
There is a way! The law of justice can be fully satisfied and mercy can be fully extended—but it takes someone else. And so it happened this time.
The debtor had a friend. He came to help. He knew the debtor well. He knew him to be shortsighted. He thought him foolish to have gotten himself into such a predicament. Nevertheless, he wanted to help because he loved him. He stepped between them, faced the creditor, and made this offer.
“I will pay the debt if you will free the debtor from his contract so that he may keep his possessions and not go to prison.”
As the creditor was pondering the offer, the mediator added, “You demanded justice. Though he cannot pay you, I will do so. You will have been justly dealt with and can ask no more. It would not be just.”
And so the creditor agreed.
The mediator turned then to the debtor. “If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?”
“Oh yes, yes,” cried the debtor. “You save me from prison and show mercy to me.”
“Then,” said the benefactor, “you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.”
And so it was that the creditor was paid in full. He had been justly dealt with. No contract had been broken. The debtor, in turn, had been extended mercy. Both laws stood fulfilled. Because there was a mediator, justice had claimed its full share, and mercy was fully satisfied.

Jim’s licking as told by Gordon B Hinckley
Years ago there was a little one-room schoolhouse in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough that no teacher had been able to handle them.A young, inexperienced teacher applied, and the old director scanned him and asked: "Young fellow, do you know that you are asking for an awful beating? Every teacher that we have had here for years has had to take one."
"I will risk it," he replied.
The first day of school came, and the teacher appeared for duty. One big fellow named Tom whispered: "I won’t need any help with this one. I can lick him myself."
The teacher said, "Good morning, boys, we have come to conduct school." They yelled and made fun at the top of their voices. "Now, I want a good school, but I confess that I do not know how unless you help me. Suppose we have a few rules. You tell me, and I will write them on the blackboard."
One fellow yelled, "No stealing!" Another yelled, "On time." Finally, ten rules appeared on the blackboard.
"Now," said the teacher, "a law is not good unless there is a penalty attached. What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?"
"Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on," came the response from the class.
"That is pretty severe, boys. Are you sure that you are ready to stand by it?" Another yelled, "I second the motion," and the teacher said, "All right, we will live by them! Class, come to order!"
In a day or so, "Big Tom" found that his lunch had been stolen. The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old. "We have found the thief and he must be punished according to your rule—ten stripes across the back. Jim, come up here!" the teacher said.
The little fellow, trembling, came up slowly with a big coat fastened up to his neck and pleaded, "Teacher, you can lick me as hard as you like, but please, don’t take my coat off!"
"Take your coat off," the teacher said. "You helped make the rules!"
"Oh, teacher, don’t make me!" He began to unbutton, and what did the teacher see? The boy had no shirt on, and revealed a bony little crippled body.
"How can I whip this child?" he thought. "But I must, I must do something if I am to keep this school." Everything was quiet as death.
"How come you aren’t wearing a shirt, Jim?"
He replied, "My father died and my mother is very poor. I have only one shirt and she is washing it today, and I wore my brother’s big coat to keep me warm."
The teacher, with rod in hand, hesitated. Just then "Big Tom" jumped to his feet and said, "Teacher, if you don’t object, I will take Jim’s licking for him."
"Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?"
Off came Tom’s coat, and after five strokes the rod broke! The teacher bowed his head in his hands and thought, "How can I finish this awful task?" Then he heard the class sobbing, and what did he see? Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. "Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!"

Brenda said...

I fell upon this post through a search. I love James Ferrel's interpretation of the story of David and Abigail in the scriptures. It describes how the atonement literally makes up the difference for others wrongs against us. It is found in his book, Peacegiver.