By Jelani Greenidge
Sometimes, in my mind’s eye, I like to conceive of what I call Biblical deleted scenes … moments or vignettes that run parallel to well-known Biblical stories, but with extra possible details that might not have gotten recorded in the original narrative.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ parable of the Lost Son. I call him the lost son because, well, who says “prodigal” anymore except to refer to this passage?
(It’s Luke 15:11–32 if you want to refresh your memory.)
Anyway… I wonder what the neighbors would’ve thought of the whole affair?
In the story, the son who’d spent his inheritance wildin’ out and having nothing to show for it, finally comes to his senses and returns home. And his gracious, loving father announces plans to kill the fattened calf and have a party. So you gotta think that several neighbors must’ve been invited to the party, right?
And I know that this story took place in a different culture than 21st century America, but if it would’ve happened today, I think that some of those neighbors might’ve had mixed feelings. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they were also excited at the boy’s return and grateful that he was home safe, but at the same time, I’d be willing to wager that in the weeks and months afterward, the spectacle of such a respectable father going so far overboard to receive his wayward son… well, it might stick in the craw of some of the other moms and dads.
Particularly because, let’s be honest… teenagers can be devious. So I bet several of the missing son’s friends were taking notes that day, mentally planning for the guilt trips they would eventually lay on their parents for not responding graciously enough to their eventual mistakes. I can imagine some of them even practicing their little speeches in the mirror beforehand. Geez, dad, I didn’t expect you to kill the fattened calf or anything, but I thought you would be more understanding about my accident with the car.
I’ve never raised teenagers myself, but I’ve been around plenty of friends who have, and I only imagine how steamed some of my parent friends would be if their teens were to run that game on them. For some, it might elicit a stern lecture; for others, a filthy tongue lashing.
My point is, it takes a lot of chutzpah to view a singular act of forgiveness of divine proportions and try to somehow angle that into a way to escape accountability for your actions.
And that’s not to say that none of these friends would ever forgive their children for doing something stupid. After all, they are children. Doing dumb things is what they do. And parents forgive; it’s what they do, too.
But forgiveness by default loses its meaning.
So if you’re somehow blessed enough to bear witness such forgiveness and your only takeaway is “let’s see how I can turn this into something that will benefit me,” you have so blithely missed the point that it’s barely visible in your rear view mirror.
This is why I had such mixed feelings when I heard about Brandt Jean hugging Amber Guyger, which is the picture at the top of this post.
And I know I was not alone.