Many homes know the heartache of watching a child make a major mistake. Dr. Luke wrote in his gospel account: Luke 15:11-13 (NKJV) Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living.”
This looks at the sons but focuses on the father. The dad does everything right as he responds to his son. We see a seven-fold response.
- The dad let him go without rejecting him. He could have easily said, “Ok, take your inheritance but don’t ever come back here. The dad allowed the son to make decisions that he knew would not be the best for the son…he respected his son enough to let him make his own decisions. Of course, age is a factor . . . you don’t let a 8 year old, or a 16 year old have this total freedom yet. Real love grants this freedom to a child of age even if you know it is the wrong decision . . . and you don’t reject them. Sometimes the best lessons learned are those that we learned through a wrong decision.
- The dad never stopped caring. Luke 15:20b (NKJV) . . . his father saw him and had compassion. Everyday that the son was gone, the dad would look and watch intently for his son to return. Why? . . . he loved his son with all his heart!
- The dad’s love ran deep. Luke 15:20b-c (NKJV) . . . his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. The dad could have been disgusted with the son. No . . . this dad loved his son no matter what he looked like, smelled like . . . no matter what wrong he had done!
- The dad’s love was not conditional. Luke 15:20 (NKJV) And he arose . . . and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. The dad did not say, “Are you repentant?” He didn’t ask. He didn’t wait to see a broken will in the son. His love for his son was unconditional . . . ”I love you no matter what!”
- The dad humbled himself in front of all. Luke 15:20 (NKJV) …he ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. In that day and age, it was a disgrace for an older man to run in public. He would have to pull up his outer garment and gird it . . . this was undignified. This dad didn’t care about this. He humbled himself and ran to his son!
- The dad gave the son undeserved generosity. Luke 15:22-24 (NKJV) But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.  And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;  for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.‘ And they began to be merry. This is nothing more than pure grace! The tough question is, “discipline or grace?” In this case, I believe that God had already disciplined the son…now God directs the father to show grace. For most of us, we probably err on the side of discipline rather than grace.
- The dad totally accepts the son. Luke 15:21 (NKJV) And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ The dad does not lay down the new ground rules…that will come later…for now, the dad just needs to accept his son . . . as if the deed had never happened!
This is one of the most wonderful illustrations of responding to a child that goes astray. The dad knew what complete forgiveness looked like:
- It was immediate.
- It was total.
- It was forgotten. It was not, “I’ll forgive but I can’t forget!”
- It was costly. If the son bore the price, it was justice. If the father, bore the price, it was forgiveness. The dad just simply absorbed the son’s wrongs.
- It was restorative. The former relationship was re-established.
This is the way my heavenly Father loved and forgave me . . . why should I do anything less? Do you kknow what prodigal means? It means ‘excessive or extravagant’. So you have an excessive and extravagant son being given excessive and extravagant love and forgiveness by the dad!!!
But what do you do between the time of their departure from the teachings of Christ and their return? This is when the heart aches. So what do you do? Tomorrow’s post will address this.