In honor of my recent trip to Hawaiʻi, I am including the rest of the prodigal son parable, told in Hawaiian Pidgin.
Last week I shared the first part of the story, where the father unconditionally accepts, forgives, and cares for his errant son. This is a story about agape love, which is what followers of Jesus are expected to practice on a daily basis with our fellow human beings. But too many folks would rather die than give others unconditional love and forgive them. Lest we forget, not to forgive another is like a person drinking poison and then waiting for someone else to die. Psychotherapists often remind us that when a person refuses to forgive someone, that other person has a great deal of power over them. In a sense, the offender runs and ruins their life.
Let’s look once more in the Da Jesus Book: Hawaii Pidgin New Testament (Wycliffe Bible Translators, 2000) at the end of the “Story Bout Da Lost Boy,” found in Luke 15:28–32. The older brother, who had been working in the fields, heard all the commotion and found out that his bratty little brother had come home and been given a hero’s welcome.
“Da older brudda, he wen come real huhu [mad]. He no like go inside da house. So da fadda guy go outside an beg him fo come inside. He tell his fadda, ‘Look hea! I wen work fo you jalike one slave, plenny years! I neva go agains notting you wen tell me fo do! Wat you wen give me, hah? You neva even give me one goat fo make party wit my friends! But dis guy, yoa boy, he wen eat up all da money fo yoa land fo pay da kine wahines [women] dat fool aroun fo money. An wen he come home, right den an dea you kill da bestes young cow fo him, an den!’
But da fadda tell, ‘My boy, you everytime stay hea wit me, an everyting I get, yoas too. But eh! good we make party an dance an sing an feel good inside! Cuz jalike dis guy, yoa brudda, wen mahke [die], but now he come back alive! Cuz he was lost, but now we find um!’”
Who am I: da fadda? o da brudda?
I want to be like the father, but sometimes the brother rules my thoughts. Just like how he wanted his “pound of flesh” extracted from his errant brother, I too have wanted my pound of flesh (or maybe not a pound but a few ounces). Back in 1969, I was fired from my ministry job, where I worked with 2,500 teenagers, for being against the war in Vietnam. I had a very difficult time forgiving the priest that fired me. For some reason, I felt I needed some payback. It didn’t consume my life, but I just couldn’t let it go. I had established this vibrant youth ministry and was not able to finish the job. But I kept moving forward, quietly ashamed of myself for not letting it go.
Thirteen years later, I received a letter from the pastor who had fired me, asking me to forgive him. He hadn’t fired me for being against the war but because my youth ministry was threatening his ministry. I finally was able to fully forgive him. Whew! About three years later, I learned that he had written a letter to the congregation—after firing me—telling them that I was disgruntled with my job and had resigned. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Back came my need for some “flesh.” He died a few years later, and that chapter finished.
“Da Lost Boy” story, even in Pidgin, is one of the most powerful guides for me on how to live my daily life. “Da brudda” character is equally powerful in helping me to not become like him.
What does this story say to you—with or without Pidgin?