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The Prodigal Son Repents

(Luke 15:1,2,11-24)

Lesson 8 -- first quarter 2001
January 21, 2001

by Mark Roth
© Copyright 2000, Christian Light Publications

In the heart of the father

This parable does not reveal to us what was going on in heart of the prodigal's father. The parable did not have that as a purpose. However, as sons and daughters we would do well to consider some of what might go on in the heart of the human father whose child has become a prodigal.

Anguish. Despite their own confidence otherwise, prodigals seldom know what they are giving up and what they are getting into. They may profess to know but not care about the harvest that comes later, but that's just their rebellious ignorance shining brightly. But the father knows. And he goes through tremendous anguish of soul at considering the pain, grief and travail the prodigal will experience. And as that experience begins to take place in the life of the prodigal, the anguish increases in the heart of the father.

Guilt. Just as fathers know that sowing leads to reaping, so they know that prior to every result exists a cause. This makes them struggle with the question, Why did my son/daughter choose the way of the prodigal? And in the process of searching for the answer, the father will most naturally turn toward himself as a likely catalyst for the behavior of his child. Fathers of prodigals battle with feelings of guilt that naturally result from perceiving themselves as failures.

Rejection. This sword has two edges. The one edge is feeling rejected and despised, mistreated and unappreciated by the prodigal. The other edge is rejecting the child's prodigal choices. Both edges are incredibly sharp and deadly. The first edge can drive the father to self-pity, depression, anger and bitterness. The second edge has the peril of turning into rejection of the prodigal himself, not just his choices and behavior. Fathers of prodigals need to handle rejection very carefully.

Worry. Where is my child now? What is he up to? Is she in trouble? What about the law? What do my friends and family think? Am I already a grandfather and don't even know it? How will I deal with this scenario, or that one, or this other one? On and on can go the father's worries, frets and fears. Such fathers need to learn to rest in the peace and grace of their Heavenly Father.

There. I opened the door a bit for you to see in. Of course there are other things going on in the father's heart; things like love, hope and peace. And why do you need to know this? So you can understand and pray better. So you can more easily overcome contempt and condemnation. Besides, you may well be the non-prodigal child of a prodigal's father. You might even be the prodigal yourself.

Siblings of prodigals

Perhaps one of your siblings has chosen the route of a prodigal. That sibling's choices may make you very angry and judgmental toward him. Overcome that with God's love and forgiveness, otherwise your attitudes will only serve to compound the struggles of your parents and drive the prodigal further away. Oh, and don't take personally the choices and attitudes of your prodigal sibling.

Behind the prodigal's facade

When we look at prodigals we generally get distracted by the obvious: rebellion, sin, moral decay, arrogance, self-confidence, pleasure-seeking. Don't forget that behind that are feelings of fear, lostness, emptiness, frustration, failure, uselessness, depression, loneliness and friendlessness.

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