REFLECTION: The Lost Son revisited

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The Unexpected Twist
The entertainment industry has been working hard recently with all the new series on TV, reboots of series that were previously cancelled and the announcement of trilogies and sequels to old and new movies. The new generation (like me) has seen quite a share of great and awful movies/TV series so it is not that simple to please the critics and users nowadays. To understand what I mean, you just need to type in the name of the movie that you want to watch, plus the word “review” and google it. You will be surprised at the amount of written and video reviews of the movie, even those movies that are unheard of get reviewed.

I have always enjoyed movies with plot twists and good guy turn bad guy (or vice versa) endings that catch me by surprise. I especially like those endings which end in bittersweet (satisfying and realistic but not really happy ending) moments that leave the movie-goers wondering and doubting about their personal beliefs of good and bad, right and wrong. To my surprise, I came upon such a story plot in our very own bible in a well-known passage Luke 15:11-32.

“The Lost Son” Review
In the story of the lost son, Jesus was trying to reveal to us the overwhelming depth of the love and forgiveness that the Father has for His lost son. The plot line is actually quite wellspread and covers both side of the extreme as it depicts 2 kinds of sons – the lost son wayward and foolish son who abandoned the father and the legalistic and resentful son who resents his father. I like this story as it illustrates, in my opinion, an honest reaction of both sons in view of what the Father has done. Anyone who reads this story can relate to either the older or the younger son. However, as I read it again last month, a question popped into my head, “Which one is REALLY the lost son?”

The story mainly focuses on the actions of the wayward son as 80% of the plot tells of what he did. Only at the end of the story did the “older son” appeared and only had ONE line (2 sentences, to be exact) in the  whole script. In movie terms, it is almostas if he only had a cameo appearance. So, most of us will assume and preach that the lost son is the younger son. But if you think about it, the younger son wasn’t actually lost at the end of the story because he “came to his senses”, repented and returned to the Father. He was saved and forgiven by his father. He was no longer lost. So, who are we left with?

Bittersweet Thoughts
In my initial thoughts of the lost son story, I always interpreted it as a love message from God that if I ever became the lost son – failed Him or stray away from Him, He will always welcome me back with open arms if I repented and came back to him. Now after more than 20 years as a Christian, I do not get “lost” that easily and this story mostly serves as a reminder for me and a tool I use to share to others how loving is our Father. But after last month, I came to realize that I may still be “lost” because Jesus may be depicting the older son as the lost son as well.

The older son was lost in his blind obedience to his father without understanding true nature of his father, lost in his resentment of people who do not follow his rules and thinking, and most of all, lost in his foolish ways – thinking that he will gain his father’s approval by continuing on as he is. This left me with a bittersweet moment knowing that this old story still sheds new insights and enlightenment, but on how veteran Christians , such as myself, can still be as lost as those whom we are witnessing to – maybe even more lost.

By Leonard Lu
Grace Methodist Church, Miri

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