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Coming to Oneself
George H. Morrison
In a few graphic touches Jesus delineates the kind of life the prodigal had been leading. With characteristic delicacy He does not give details. He leaves it for the elder brother to do that. We have the picture of a young man wasting his time and money-and what is worse than that, wasting his life-and like most young men who think to live that way, finding plenty of both sexes to convoy him. He is self-willed, self-indulgent, riotous-and we are just on the point of calling him contemptible. We are just on the point of thinking how to one like Jesus the prodigal must be infinitely loathsome. When suddenly a single phrase arrests us and opens a lattice into the mind of Christ and makes us suspend judgment on the prodigal. "When he came to himself"-when he became himself-then in his years of riot he was not himself. It was not the prodigal who was the real man. The real man was the penitent, not the prodigal. He was never himself until his heart was breaking, and the memories of home came welling over him until he cried, "I will arise and go to my father, and say unto him, Father, I have sinned."
I may note in passing how we have caught that tone in the kindly allowances we often make. This parable has not only influenced thought; like all the parables it has also affected language. When some one whom we love is cross or irritable, we say of him, "He's not himself today." When one whom we have known for years does something unworthy, we say, "Ah, that's not himself at all." And what is that but our instinctive certainty that a man is more than his vices or his failures, and that if you want to know him as he is, you must take him at the level of his best. It was always thus that Jesus judged humanity. He was a magnificent and a consistent optimist. He never made light of sin, never condoned it. To Him it was always terrible and tragic. But then the sinner was not the real man; sin was a bondage, a tyranny, a mad ...
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