When he returns from the distant land, can you forgive completely?

When the Prodigal Son came to his senses and decided to return home, his father saw him approaching from a distance. The father then did something that was, at that time, culturally surprising.

Normally in ancient Jewish culture, a father would wait to be addressed by the son and to receive some indication of respect before even responding. This father didn’t wait. The Bible says in Luke 20:

“…he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

The son began the speech that he had practiced all the way home:

“Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son” (v. 21).

But the Father didn’t wait to hear the rest. He 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” (v. 22-24).

What do you do when your children repents? Do you fold your arms and say, “You’re going to have to prove you mean business before I believe you!”? As time goes on, do you remind them again and again of the mistakes they’ve made? Or do you allow them to bury the past? Remember we need to deal with our children the way our heavenly father deals with us, he forgives and forgets.

Your children will make mistakes throughout their lives. They will say and do hurtful things to you. If you have given them a solid foundation, they will eventually come to their senses and repent. When they do, forgive them, celebrate with them, and bury their sins in the past—and while you are at it, have a party!

Don’t make your children wait for your forgiveness. Deal with them the way your heavenly father deals with you: Forgive them immediately and forgive them totally. But I’ll often hear some parents say, “But I don’t want to be taken advantage of again and again.” If you have shown your children an example of fairness through the years like the Prodigal Son, they won’t even try.

It’s a fact that cannot be denied: your children will sin. Maybe in little ways, maybe in big ways—but they will do things that are wrong.

When they finally come to their senses, because they will, you must be quick to forgive—like the Prodigal Son’s father and like our heavenly father does for you when you err.

That is how a parent expresses love to their children. You can’t do it in a day; this relationship is a lifetime commitment. It’s a journey of love. It takes a commitment to treat your children the same way your heavenly father treats you. But that is truly what it means to love as Christ loves us. It’s a journey of sacrificial love.

Build a firm foundation. Give them an example of fairness. Be quick to show forgiveness.