[This post is the fourth in a series of devotions on forgiveness that I first published last year in a leaders’ devotional book, "Disciplines 2013" from The Upper Room. This is based on a reading found in Luke 15:25-32]
It seems the reuniting of a family would be cause for unbridled celebration. Hurt and separation are not desired. But betrayal and abandonment cut deep. The brother who remained at home was wounded. He not only suffered the loss of his brother who deserted him, but he was left to share his father’s pain. It is hard when someone we love is hurt. The cut is even deeper.
So, when the happy reunion occurred, the older brother didn’t join in. He could have done his duty and joined the festivities, but anger was deep. He was not only responsible while his brother wasted his inheritance, but he also must now share the remainder since his brother was now a son again. Not only the past needed to be grieved, but also the loss of the future that he had anticipated.
Is it fair to ask the older brother to forgive his younger brother? Certainly if the father’s desire for family unity is honored, then he has no choice. But, don’t ask him to like it. Overcoming deep and shaming pain is an arduous process. Forgiveness isn’t simply declaring that it’s over. Grieving the loss of the world you knew and the world you hoped for takes time. Being freed for a new tomorrow requires a forgiving spirit that must grow toward that liberated future. It takes patience. Take small steps. It takes prayerful conversation with the offending party and your own soul.
Also keep in mind the mind of the father. While the younger son has new opportunity and does not suffer permanent separation, the older son is the beneficiary of the steadfast presence and affection of the father. While it may appear that the gifts of grace are only for those who do grievous offense, there is constant and faithful presence for those who never know the pain of separation. Hold on to God’s constant grace.
Hold us, patient Redeemer, in your constant state of grace.