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Don’t run to the rescue

In this day and age of the “Amber Alert” you’ve grown sadly accustomed to hearing about those who are missing or lost.

You might even remember the milk cartons, stamped with a photo of a little boy or girl, with the caption “Have you seen this child?”

You can easily imagine the horror a parent would feel upon discovering that their child is gone, or the fear and anger that would rise within when finding out a son or daughter has run away. You’d want to do something — to act — to bring that loved one home again.

Scripture tells of such a frightening tale. It’s in Luke 15:11-32, the “Parable of the Lost Son.” And while I’m sure you’re familiar with the story, I encourage you to open your Bible for a couple of minutes and read the parable again, because it teaches that the last thing you do with your prodigal is act — or, at least, act in the way you think.

In Jesus’ parable, the younger son got his inheritance but, “set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.”

After his money was gone, famine struck. To survive, he hired himself out feeding pigs, but he became so hungry he longed for the swine’s pods, “but no one gave him anything.”

The son was destitute and abandoned.

What was the father doing this entire time? Did he saddle up a caravan to seek out his son and deliver him from the pestilence in the land? Nope. Dad stayed home. He didn’t run to the rescue. This wise father knew his son needed to learn on his own. The result? Luke 15:17 says the son, “came to his senses” and chose to go home.

It’s also easy to take on the role of counselor or consultant to your prodigal while they’re away. A preachy approach, though, will likely get you nowhere fast. So instead of giving them advice, why not give your pain and frustration to God and faithfully pray for your prodigal?

I believe that’s exactly what the father was doing in Luke 15. Jesus was using this parable to illustrate to his listeners how God remains involved in His children’s lives when they turn away from Him. It beautifully describes the Lord’s mercy and love. Therefore, I simply cannot see the father in the story being an indifferent, calloused bystander. I’m convinced he was interceding daily for his son, seeking God’s protection and will, faithfully awaiting his child’s return. Perhaps that’s why you’re told that while the son, “was still a long way off, his father saw him” (Luke 15:20). He was looking for his son’s arrival, trusting his prayers would be realized.

Finally, when your prodigal decides to return, they need to know they have somewhere to go, that you’ll be there for them to walk alongside and help them put their lives back on track.

In addition, when they come back you need to welcome them, even if others in the home aren’t happy about it. The prodigal son’s brother certainly wasn’t thrilled with his father’s enthusiasm. After all, wasn’t this the son that openly rebelled?

But the rejoicing father kept the right perspective: “But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:32).

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