One of the most familiar and best-loved parables the Lord told is that of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). It is a story replete with rebellion, desperation, ingratitude, immorality, rejection and, above all, genuine love and the reconciliation it produced. A father’s youngest son demanded his inheritance before his father even died. He ungratefully took the money, went to another country, threw off parental restraints and “squandered his estate with loose living” (Lk. 15:13). His older brother accused him of devouring it with harlots (Lk. 15:30). When his money ran out and a severe famine occurred his so-called friends abandoned him as well. He was reduced to the lowly and despicable task of feeding pigs. He became so hungry that he even desired to eat food the pigs ate. Fortunately, he came to realize his sad plight and determined to return home. While he was still some distance from home his father recognized him and ran to meet him, embraced him and kissed him. The father brought the best robe and put it on him, signifying that he was receiving him back with honor. He put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet indicating that he was being received as a master and heir, not a slave. In the parable Jesus was painting a mental picture of God’s great love for sinful men who are penitent.
Parents would do well to emulate that kind of tender and compassionate love for their children. It would eliminate child abuse, hateful speech, inconsiderate “put-downs,” and other forms of mistreatment. Children function much better where there is an environment of genuine affection and love. Their behavior may not always be what we parents would desire, but we should love them anyway.