I was reading another blog after I got here to the new hotel and it triggered something that is a good follow on to last night’s post on Grace and Mercy. Most people, even nonreligious people, have heard the story of the prodigal son found in Luke 15:11-32. In case you haven’t, I’ll sum it up.
There once was a very rich man with two sons. The younger son decided he was tired of waiting for dear old dad to kick off, so he straight up asks for his half of the inheritance now so he can go enjoy it while he’s still young. The dad agrees to the unreasonable request for some reason and the son goes off.
It goes about as well as you might expect from a young man who was impatient for his father to pass away. He blows his money on women, wine, and fast living. He ends up so poor, he is homeless and in danger of starving to death. At this point he thinks to himself “better to be the lowest servant in my father’s house than die out here in a foreign land.”
He realizes how stupid and hurtful he’s been and knows he doesn’t deserve anything, but plans to beg for any job on the estate so he won’t die. So he returns to his father’s house, but before he can even beg for forgiveness, his father rushes out to meet him. He’s so glad his son has returned, that he throws a feast for him and restores him to his comfortable position in the family.
It’s a great story about the forgiveness, mercy, and grace of God towards sinners. The father should have said, “Piss off! I don’t love you anymore and I don’t want anything to do with you after the way you acted.” But instead he welcomes him back into the family and throws a big party. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be loved like that when I screw up.
But the parable doesn’t actually end there. In fact, that’s actually just the setup. You see, Jesus was telling the story to the Pharisees who were complaining that he wasn’t being sufficiently hard on the prostitutes and tax collectors he was hanging out with. You know, the people who were acting like the younger brother.
The rest of the parable is that the prodigal son’s older brother – the “good one” refused to go to the party. This was a major faux pas since he was causing his father to lose face. When the father and older son talked, his son angrily said (paraphrasing) “I’ve been the good one all this time, earning my inheritance. I stood by you when my brother acted shamefully and now you’re rewarding him with my part of my inheritance by having a big party for him.” The father replies that it is proper to rejoice when his son who was dead to him has returned to life.
And that’s where the parable ends. I leave it to the reader, just as Jesus did, to figure out what the application is for repentant cheaters, loyal spouses, and bystanders who want to offer advice to the recovering couple. Just a hint, don’t be like the Pharisees/Older brother.