Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the wealth that will belong to me.’ So he divided his assets between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant region, and there he squandered his wealth in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that region, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that region, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to his senses he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.” ’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate, for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
“Now his elder son was in the field, and as he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command, yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’ ”
mercy triumphs over judgment.
There’s more than one way to look at Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son. Here is a most interesting take, which I think is quite legitimate, one you’ve likely never heard or read.
What happens when we’re with someone who is acting in a way that is unhelpful, perhaps even harmful and disrespectful? And when it’s a situation in which ethics are ignored or even scorned? How are we to look at this situation and such a person? How are we to act?
To begin with, it probably would be good to begin with ourselves. Or at least I can speak for myself in this. It’s so easy for us to have all but too good short memories. We don’t remember how in our lives we’ve done or been a certain way which was anything but helpful and good. We need to consider ourselves before anyone else.
But we also have to live in the present. What do we do with the situation, with the person? First of all, we’re not going to condone their conduct either explicitly or implicitly. We may not be called, nor should we necessarily rebuke it. Though of course we should be ready to help them if they reach out to us. But chances are that’s not what the situation looks like. They’re likely gladly wallowing in the life and attitudes and action which accompany that.
We should never condone what they’re doing, but we should always look at them with mercy and hope. Prayers and waiting. Being an example ourselves of the better way. And like the father in Jesus’s story, longing for change with love. The father looked and looked, and was more than delighted, completely overjoyed at his son’s return.
We should not look down on others but look for them instead. Yes, as Jesus tells us elsewhere that we’re to be perfect and merciful as his heavenly Father is, we must inculcate in ourselves that same heart and attitude. Showed in our words, often lack of words, attitudes and actions.
Not seeing ourselves as superior but looking at everyone as at least potentially family. That we’re in this life together in love. The love of God in and through Jesus.