|Volume 23 Number 3 March 2021
Over the last couple of months, I have been conversing with one of the sweetest Christian ladies I have ever met, and we were talking about her adult sons and their faith. Both of her sons have struggled with their faith. I have been searching for some wise words of God to share from the heart of a young, foolish woman to the heart of an older and wiser woman.
One day, we were texting about nothing in particular, and she mentioned how much she still loves to spoil her “boys,” even though they are grown men. I thought back to some of our previous conversations and thought about how this is a recurring theme. She loves to do things to show her sons how much she loves them. Then, it occurred to me that her actions, while they were intended to show love, were probably one reason why her sons have struggled with their faith.
It reminded me of a similar situation in my family. Despite being raised in the church, this young man rebelled. He was frequently found to be drinking, smoking, using profanity, having sexual relations and doing drugs. While not all these events were known at the time, they were all present. This young man had more than one run-in with the law over these behaviors. However, the loving family was always there for him. They were willing to bail him out. They paid for a good lawyer. They did every enabling thing short of buying the drugs, tobacco and booze. This young man walked completely away from the church, and he is unlikely to ever return.
As I thought about the similar circumstances, I tried to find Scripture to take to this wonderful woman. I constantly came back to the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. At first, I struggled to make the connection. I knew from my family experience that the young man needed to be kicked out for his sinful life, but in the parable, the father did not evict his son for sinning.
In Luke 15:12, the younger son went to his father and asked for his portion of the inheritance early. Then, he went to a far-off country. There, this son lived a very sinful life. After some time and when all his money was gone, he was forced to find the lowest of low jobs (vs. 15).
Note where the son went when he wanted to live a sinful life. He did not remain in his father’s home or even in close proximity. He went far away to live his sinful life. Why did he go so far away? The prodigal son knew that his sin would not be welcome in his father’s house, and that if he wanted to sin, he had to be far from the reach of his father. Being a member of this rich man’s house, whether child or servant, meant stability and protection. It meant food and shelter. It meant that the father would share his blessings with his household. However, the father was not willing to share these blessings with a sinful child, and the son knew it.
Was the father harsh, cruel and unforgiving? Is that what drove the son away? No! Verses 20-24 show the father was waiting for the son to come home. He had been longing for the prodigal’s return, and the father ran out to meet his son. The father was quick to forgive his son as soon as he confessed his sins. The father was neither cruel nor unkind. He did not berate his son or make him grovel while asking for forgiveness.
The father was kind and loving but also firm. He would not tolerate sin in his home. He could not allow one person to disrupt the environment he cultivated for his family. He had absolute control. Likewise, if he were to allow one child to blatantly sin, how easy would it be for the others to be disrespectful? How would the householder keep his servants in order if he could not even keep his children in order? Open sin of one will quickly spiral to others.
Since the father in the parable is clearly a parallel to God the Father, what does that say to us? We see passages that tell us how we sin when we fail to do what we know is right (James 4:17). We are also told that there is no forgiveness for those who go on sinning willfully (Romans 6; Hebrews 10:26). Sin separates from God (Romans 6:23). These verses let us know that if we want to live sinful lives, we can be sure that we will not receive God’s blessings. More importantly, we will not receive a crown of life and a home in Heaven if we persist in sin.
How does this relate to our parenting? We cannot show support for our children when they engage in sinful living. We cannot offer them any of the blessings God has given to us. He blesses us with our homes, our food, our vehicles, etc. If the father in the parable – and God by extension – would not allow the prodigal son in the parable to remain in his blessings while he sinned, why do we? Why do we allow our children to live in our homes, eat our food, drive our vehicles and spend our money while they persist in sin? Why do we shower them with blessings as a reward for sinful behavior? This is not the example God shows us in Luke 15, but it is how we live our lives. We wonder why our children will not come back to God when they walk away. We wonder why we cannot get them to stop living in sin. The real question is, why should they? They have every blessing God is giving you, and you are willing to share those blessings with them. They see no reason to change. We are literally “loving” them straight into Hell.
The father knew what the son hoped to accomplish by asking for his inheritance, but he gave it to him. Why? The son had to choose to do the right thing. The father could not save him from his choices. Also note how the father did not go out and search for this lost son. Why? The son needed to realize on his own that he needed to come home and ask for forgiveness. He had been taught what was expected. God is willing to forgive, but we must be willing to seek God. If we do, God will “run” to us with open arms.
When our children decide they do not want to obey or to respect God in our homes, we need to be prepared to send them out. They must face the consequences of falling away if they are ever going to return to God. When babies learn to walk, we allow them to fall. Why? Because it teaches them to get back up! This is how they develop strong legs. If we only allowed our children to use a walker, they would never fall, but they would never grow stronger either. They would never learn that it is okay to fall but not okay to stay down. However, this is exactly what we do to our children when we allow them to disobey God in our homes.
Parents, we must learn that the house is our house, and the rules are our rules. It does not matter how old your child is, you cannot allow him or her to break God’s rules in your house and then bless them for doing so! Do your adult children live with you and refuse to come to worship, use profanity or tobacco in your house or take the Lord’s name in vain? These actions must be stopped, or they need to be out of your house with which God has blessed you. If they want to live with their significant other, use drugs, party or in some other way slander the name of the Lord and the bride of Christ, you need to stop opening your door to them. The father did not visit the son in his sinful life and wish him well. Instead, the father waited for him to come home.