An article written by my father, the Rev. C. Thomas Paige, as it appeared in the Tri-State Defender on the date shown.
The parable of the Prodigal Son ends, as far as the son is concerned, with a great feast prepared by his father. But does it actually end there?
It might be a good thing if life could end for many of us at its pinnacle but, unfortunately, life goes on far beyond that and man finds himself constantly tormented with the phrase “I knew him when.”
Ofttimes I bring up the name of someone in my conversations and I am reminded by some oldster of the community that “I knew him when.” Oh yes, irrespective of how high a person goes in life, there is someone there who, by some stroke of fortune, did not arrive at the same point and can always nourish some evil deed he did and at a moment of highest praise, gets great joy in saying, “Oh yes, he is somebody now but I knew him when.”
A few days ago I was talking about a lady who is well thought of in this community. I was quickly reminded that she has not always been the type of person she is now. I feel quite sure that people, being what they are and no doubt what they were in the days of the Prodigal, constantly reminded him of the time when he ate at the pig trough.
The Prodigal Son could have become an outstanding doctor, lawyer, or minister but his life was no doubt always tinted with the idea “I knew you when.” I wonder of the ability to forget is not a definite index to our religion. I wonder if those people who are so prone to remember those things that people did in some unfortunate moment is not a good index to exactly how much religion we have.
I remember in my church at home we had a lady who came to our church and joined the Christians therein. From all evidence, she was sincere in her motive. Somewhere down life’s highway, she had encountered a razor and a very bad scar was left on her face. She applied for membership in one of the organizations of the church. One of the ladies of the church, a lady for whom I had great respect, went about canvassing immediately that she did not want her in this organization because she had the scar on her face.
I don’t know what the circumstances were surrounding her getting this scar but I was, and still am, of the opinion that because she had made up her mind to join the church and make a new start in life, I should have been the first one to give her a chance to prove that she was sincere in her motives. Many times we are too prone by our own goodness to judge everyone by the fortunate circumstances through which we have come.
Yes, many of us do not have razor scars on our faces but it is not because we have failed to deserve it or because we have lived so righteously. Sometimes we should examine the reason behind certain scars and then we would not be so prone to judge so critically.
LEARN THE TRUTH
I know a man who has lost one of his ears. From all outward appearances it looks as if someone cut off that ear with a dull knife. But when I listened to his story of how it actually happened, it brought tears of joy unto my eyes that a man would go through so much for the life of someone else.
He walks the streets maimed for life because he chose to risk his life for an innocent child who was in the pathway of an oncoming automobile. Maybe someone in the community can look back into the distant past and say, “I knew him when” but as time rolls on, his deed becomes more and more meaningful.
FIND THE GOOD
If sometimes we could look behind the dismal looks on the faces of people or their apparent inattentiveness, we would have a different outlook on appraising them. But there is something in most of us that always makes us look at the worse in each individual with whom we come in contact. It is my deep seated opinion that being a Christian should make us have a different outlook on life altogether. One of the things that strikes me most about Jesus is the fact that he always saw something good in everyone with whom he had contact.
We, being Christians — Christ-like — should be of the same frame of mind. We must learn to see beyond the scars, the mistakes, the emotional upheavals, and instead see a person fit for the kingdom of God.