I’ve heard people comment on the parable of the prodigal son for as far back as I can remember. They use it as an example of a repentant son, or a loving father, but I think they miss the point of the parable. First of all, prodigals, repentant or not, are nothing special. They are a dime a dozen. Children who go their own way, only to reconsider their situation later are nothing new. They have been doing that from time immemorial.
Loving fathers, as touching as they are, are also nothing unusual. Fathers have been forgiving their children as long as there have been parents and children. We forgive them because we love them, and realize they are growing up and taking responsibility for themselves.
Sibling rivalry is also nothing new. Brothers have been fighting with each other since Cain and Abel. They criticize and complain and feel they weren’t treated equally with their siblings which may or may not be true, depending on the circumstances.
The point of the parable is in their father’s words: “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him ‘Your brother has come and because he has received him safe and sound your father has killed the fatted calf. But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. So he answered and said to his father ‘Lo these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat that I might make merry with my friends.But as soon as this son of yours came who has devoured your livelihood with harlots you killed the fatted calf for him. And he said to him ‘Son you are always with me and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad for your brother was dead and is alive again and was lost and is found.”
The father acknowledges the older son’s faithfulness and says that everything he has is his; but he should rejoice because his brother was restored to them. The question is, would the older brother receive him? Mankind struggles with its sins and wrong actions, and we wonder if we can ever be restored after the things we have done. The loving father restores and receives his son. The question is, will the older brother come to the party? God forgives, and God restores, but more often than not, we do not forgive and receive back our errant brothers. Ultimately, we need to decide if we are going to join the celebration; in other words, God will receive our brothers. He doesn’t need our permission to do that. He will receive them, and will rejoice over them. When we don’t acknowledge that, and join the party, the rejoicing, we are excluding ourselves from God’s celebration, and will find ourselves on the outside. We need to be putting aside our criticisms of one another and receive one another lest we find ourselves outside of the party and cheat ourselves out of blessing and joy. This is what Yeshua meant when he said “But if you do not forgive neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.” We shut ourselves out of potential blessing by not forgiving, restoring, and receiving others. The question we are left with is, “Is it worth it?”