For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. Luke 15:24 (NIV)
There’s a well-known story in Luke 15 about a youngster who persuaded his father to provide him with enough money to go and party. Now we’re not talking about one or two parties. This was serious long-term partying. This youngster wanted to party – party! So he pushed off and squandered his wealth in wild living. It was carousing, caviar and cigars on a grand scale.
But the good life never lasts for long. Eventually his money was gone and he had to go and work tending someone’s pigs. It was as good as being on skid row. Here was a Jewish boy in a very non-kosher environment. It doesn’t get any worse than that. Or maybe it does – the pigs ate better than he did.
In the end his stomach got the better of him. He “came to his senses” Luke 15:17. And, as we all know, when a teenage boy is desperate for a good meal, there’s only one place to go: home. This lad was no different from any other lad. He took the gap and made tracks for Mum and Dad. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” Luke 15:20.
Then “the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” Luke 15:22-24.
When the father welcomed his son with open arms, he demonstrated love beyond regular love, love with no strings attached – unconditional love.
Now I know the father in this parable represents the heavenly Father and his unconditional love for sinners such as you and me, but allow me some scope and think of this text as having something to teach on parenting. When you apply the story to parent/child relationships, it’s a reminder of how vital it is for a parent to willingly love and accept a child solely because he or she is one’s own flesh and blood. As a parent you must love your children for the simple reason that they’re yours. You mustn’t attach conditions to your love. You mustn’t love your children on the basis of their performance or potential. God doesn’t. You must love them just because they’re yours. For if you do, if you love your children unconditionally, then no matter how wilful or lost they may be, you can be sure that when they repent, when they come to their senses, they’ll know what to do and where to go – they’ll head for home.