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The Necessity of Forgiveness 12: The Rebellious Child

The Necessity of Forgiveness Day 12 – The Rebellious Child

Many are cut to the heart when they hear the words “rebellious child,” perhaps bringing up a hurt so deep that you may not speak of it freely. Often, when someone has a rebellious child, they feel shame and wonder what they did wrong that led their beloved child down a path that broke their hearts. While other people’s children seem to be doing the right things, making good choices and leading lives that bring their parents joy and pride, theirs are floundering, and it tears them up.

Jesus told a parable that mirrors the love He has for us, as we have been rebellious toward Him. A father had two sons; the younger one asked for his part of the inheritance early—I wonder how the father felt when he asked this! He wanted to go and experience all that the world had to offer, and it says he wasted all of his inheritance on wild living. While he had money, his life was full of friends and fun, but when it ran out, he found himself penniless and the only work he could find was feeding pigs. While sitting with the pigs, desiring even to eat their food, he came to the point of repentance and determined to go home to his father, knowing how much better off he had been. He would say to his father that he had sinned and that he was not worthy to be called his son but was willing to be a servant. 

In a culture in which honor and respect for authority figures were ingrained, this son’s behavior surely invited gossip. “Did you hear about his son, the one who wasted every penny of his inheritance?” Or, “Did you hear about that guy? He allowed his son to have his inheritance early, who then wasted it living a life of sin.” And maybe even this: “That man watches every day for his rebellious son to return home after he wasted his inheritance. I wouldn’t ever want to see mine again if he did that to me!”

But the beautiful part was that the father had waited and watched for his son every day, hoping for his return. And on that day when he finally saw him coming, he ran to meet him, threw his arms around him, kissed him, and welcomed him home—not as a servant but as a son. This is such a wonderful picture of forgiveness—no strings attached, no requirements. 

Are you longing today to see someone find their way back to you? Does your heart ache every day with feelings of betrayal, regret and shame, desperate for change—good change? Are you praying for it and wondering if it’ll ever happen in your lifetime? Oh, how hard it is to wait for a rebellious child or even a rebellious spouse. But as we wait, we can do something along with our praying: we can forgive them ahead of time for the hurt they’ve caused us. We can do this because it’s what Jesus continually does for us.

As we think of our hurt and pain, may our hearts be opened to this truth: we have caused that same hurt and pain in the heart of our Lord. May we also search ourselves for areas of unconfessed sin and acknowledge those to our Father in heaven, trusting in His grace and goodness to forgive each one. 

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:17-20, NIV)

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