By Paul Ejime
Today’s Scripture reading is about the Prodigal Son or what many also call the Prodigal Father. But before we delve into the Scripture, today is Mother’s Day, so Happy Mothering Day to all Mothers.
While motherhood is one of the toughest jobs, it is often taken for granted. Even surrogate motherhood is not a walk in the park. The World will be a better place, when mothers are accorded their due. To all mothers, we cannot appreciate or thank you enough for your contributions to life and living!
Now, back to the Scripture! The Christian calendar is approaching the end of the Lenten period and Easter, the most important Feast and foundation of Christianity (because without the suffering, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christianity as a religion will be meaningless).
In the parable of the prodigal son or prodigal father, Luke 15:1-32 dwells on the teachable lessons related to anger, patience, love and reconciliation as the “tax collectors and sinners” listened to Jesus while the Pharisees and Scribes complained that he was dinning with the sinners.
This famous story about a man, his two children and his servants, resonates with the different human roles, attitudes and characters. The younger son had asked the father for his share of the estate/inheritance, and the father graciously obliged.
The young man took off on his ill-advised adventure and after squandering all he had collected from his father, came back to his senses. He swallowed his pride and went back to his father begging for forgiveness. He actually asked his father to take him in as one of his “hired hands,” because he no longer deserved a place as his son.
But when the father sighted his repentant son as the latter approach home, he was apparently over-joyed; had pity on him and embraced him.
The father even decided to welcome his lost and found son with celebration. He told his servants to slaughter the “best calf” they had been fattening, fetch the best robe, a ring and pair of sandals for the young man after he confessed that he had sinned “against heaven and the father” and therefore did not deserve to be treated as his son.
As the feast went on, the man’s elder son heard the sound of the celebration and on enquiry, one of the servants told him that his father was celebrating the return of his younger brother.
This infuriated the elder brother who could not contain his anger. He confronted his father, reminding him, as if he did not know, that the young man he was celebrating had actually collected his own share of their father’s estate and wasted it on free women. His father treated the returnee prodigal son as a Prince or King, whereas he never considered him, his elder son, who remained at home and done all the work, worthy of any feast or celebration.
The father tried to calm his angry son by assuring him that all his estate/property belonged to him.
In this parable, the prodigal or generous father could represent God, who is always willing to forgive us our sins whenever we repented like the prodigal son did. On many occasions, we also act like the man’s angry elder son or the servant who aggravated the situation by the way he reported the feast.
We must recognize that anger is human and not necessarily bad. Jesus Christ in his human life did get angry on occasion, namely John 2:15, when he made a whip of cords and chased the pilgrims out of the Temple with sheep and oxen; scattered the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables for trying to turn the Father’s House into a business centre.
There are also examples in the Scripture of God’s wrath or anger.
But while reasonable or righteous indignation/anger can be tolerated, uncontrolled or prolonged anger is dangerous, not only to our spirit but to our health. The greatest danger with anger is that it hurts both the angry and the object of the anger.
There are anger management programmes, including by some employers who desire to get the best from their employees.
But our reference point should be Psalm 145:8 and Proverbs 15:18, reminding us that the “Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.”
Also, Proverbs 14:29 says: “Whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.”
To overcome anger, we must learn cultivate patience and love to effectively deal with the root causes of the anger internally since we cannot give what we do not have. We must also reconcile ourselves with whomever or whatever causes the anger.
Like the prodigal son but contrite son, we are enjoined to retrace our steps and seek forgiveness whenever we err. Like the prodigal or generous father, we are required to show compassion, fairness and love, and with no attachment to earthly possessions (estate/property).
We should not aggravate or escalate tension the way the servant reported the return of the prodigal son and the feasting. And lastly, like the elder brother, we must be patient and eschew anger or quick-temper if we are to inherit the Kingdom or make Heaven!
Paul Ejime is a Global Affairs Analyst and an Independent Consultant to International Organizations on Corporate Strategic Communications, Peace & Security and Elections.