Every story has a point of view. I knew that family. I would have told their story a little differently than Jesus did. I would have told you a little more.
The kid was a chancer, a gambler, an addict. Not his fault; he took after his old man: emotional, extravagant, uninhibited. When he hit rock bottom – seriously, pigs? And in a conveniently foreign, far-off land; a likely story – anyway, when he finally ran aground he thought, as addicts do, strategically, lining up his next hit in his head. His father had always been a soft touch. He’d lay it on thick, he’d have the old man weeping, promising the sun and the moon for his redemption by the end of the night.
It went even better than expected.
The elder brother: sober, serious, steady; he took after their mother. He had never forgiven father or brother for driving her, as he saw it, to an early grave with their profligate ways. He heard the sounds of carousing and he knew; he knew. He went to have it out with his father; he didn’t trust himself to go near his brother. Their father was already drunk, promising the moon while his threadbare sleeve caught the cup of wine and floored it, thick red liquid spilling across the mud floor.
In the morning, by the time the elder brother could trust himself to approach the main house, his younger sibling had flown the coop. Recharged, redeemed, refinanced, he had left with the dregs of the dawn. The father, well hungover, wept and belched. The elder brother, caught between his mother’s long-suffering love and compassion and his own anger at her leaving, watched him wearily, balanced between pity and contempt, shifting his weight from one to the other like a boxer.
So tell me, Jesus: how are you going to pull this one out of the pigswill (to put it politely)? What miracle will you work to rescue, to redeem out of this thick muck the bright shining river that runs from the throne in the kingdom of God?
(… to be continued)
Now you’ve got me thinking: is God’s love like the love of a gullible father who knows his son is just going to run away again and get back into his addiction and still gives the money to him anyway? And even scarier: are we like the son who only goes back to the father for a bit of self-righteous pity-play, knowing that the next day we’re just going to go back out doing what we always did? While I’m still wrestling with the former, I’m almost certain the latter is true.
After I wrote this, I remembered the times when we did not know whether my (addicted) brother was dead or alive, so that when we would find him, in prison or in hospital or wherever there were “official” people to make contact with family, it was as though he were back from the dead. There are so many facets to this story – it’s going to be an interesting ride finding out where Sunday ends up!