Which side will you err?
I like to continue my encounters with the parable of prodigal son (or prodigal father). Now interestingly this younger son decides to come back to the father. We don’t have any proof to claim that he came with a sense of full repentance. (What is this full repentance is a good question). But one thing is sure that he never expected to be restored back to his sonship. Because of hunger, he came back to his father’s house to be treated as one of his servants. Now imagine the scene if the elder brother was at home, when he arrived. Probably father would have still prevailed over the objections of the elder son.
We can make another imaginative digression, which is more interesting. If the father was already dead (or if he was absent from the house at that point of time), and the elder son was the “responsible person” in the family, what would happen? In some traditions, we say that ancestors and parents live through the children. Whether that father will be living through his eldest son at this imaginary encounter between two sons is a good question. There is no good reason to believe that eldest son would have probably granted the younger son his “sonship” back. We can argue that only the father has the right to do so. Rightly so; but the father is willing to do; just that it has to happen through the elder son; and he is not ready to do it.
Now I take the scenario to our modern Christian religious world. Jesus and his spirit are present in the church and the world. Interestingly, followers of Jesus are called to be “alter Christus — Other Christ”. In a much more powerful way than the example of ancestors or parents living through the children, Jesus lives through his disciples. The only possible evidence of this can be shown by the disciples through their lives.
Take an example. A “lost” son/daughter wants to return to the church. I know this term lost is not a universal term; probably they are not following the laws of the church in some matter; who follows the laws of the church perfectly is a good question, and so all are lost in some sense; still, “some lost people” are given the privileged task of welcoming “other lost people”. Whether the initial group realise their privilege is a good question. The church authorities and leaders along with the community (whether they are always considered is a question) has to take the role of the father of the parable. But interestingly many of us have the characteristics of father and the elder son. Most of the times, elder son dominates; younger son never returns, or is not integrated into the family properly; and the mission of Jesus fails.
Probably we the followers of Jesus, especially those in authority, need to answer two questions
1. How can the younger son be treated in such a good way by the father? Is the father just?
2. How long the question of giving scandal to believers/new generations prevent the Church from offering mercy to one of his sons/daughters who is in a “irregular type of situation”?
If both sides are pits of err, will you err on the side of mercy or on the side of severity of law? May be the mother in the story of King Solomon teaches us a lesson.