There's one thing I wish I would have taken the time to talk about in the parable series and that is that you have to be careful how to interpret them.
This was brought to my attention when I attended a small group discussion last week. Some people were expressing confusion at how they could love their children like the father in the parable of the Lost Sons (Prodigal). I said, "Whoa...don't go there. That parable wasn't given to teach parents how to parent. It was given to teach us about God's love. The only application Jesus wanted us to get from it was that we should rejoice when "sinners" respond to God's love and not be critical."
You see, God is able to love people unconditionally all the time because he is infinite and he can't be worn out by us. But we are not so fortunate. Our finiteness causes us to need to implement boundaries into our relationships to save us from being relationally burned and taken advantage of. There are indeed times when our love should be completely selfless and unconditional. But if we treated all people like that all the time we'd end up in a psych ward by the end of the week!
So, be careful with the parables in how you apply them. They have restricted application. The same can be said about judging. Jesus often taught through parables not to judge but he wasn't saying that we should NEVER judge. He was saying that we shouldn't judge sinners that show an interest in turning to God. I'll be preaching on appropriate times and ways to judge in January. Stay tuned.