Summary: A look at the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son as an example of Godly fatherhood.
An Exemplary Father
FATHER’S DAY IS ALMOST UPON US and it reminded me of a story I read about a dad who really understood his role. Some years ago, in a military academy, the students mutinied, probably a reaction to the hard demands of such an environment. The students had struck in everything: lessons, study hours, drill. When word reached their parents, the students began to receive telegrams, which the principal had in his possession. These messages were like a telescope through which one could look into the various kinds of boy’s homes and the parental relationships connected with them.
One father wired his son, “I expect you to obey.” Another said, “If you are expelled from school, you needn’t come home.” Still another said, “I’ll send you to an insane asylum if you are sent home.” Another said, “I’ll cut you off without a penny if you disgrace the family.” But the best message was couched in these laconic words: “Steady, my boy, steady! Father.”
There was a man who believed in his son and probably there is no greater influence upon a young man than a father who respects the spirit of his son and treats him like a man.
When children go astray, parents can either help or aggravate the situation. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, I find seven principles to help us react redemptively when faced with a wayward child.
1. The father in the parable did not disown his son. There is no trace of anger and retaliation. The father simply kept on loving his son. Doesn’t that sound like God? Of course it does, because that is who the father in the parable represents! A father had told his son he would send him to sleep in the attic, with only bread and water for his supper if he disobeyed. Well, the boy disobeyed and was sent to the attic. The father couldn’t eat. He had his son on his mind and his heart. His wife said, “I know what you are thinking. But you must not bring the boy from the attic. It would cause him to disobey again. He would have no respect for your word. You must not cheapen your relation as his father by failing to keep your word. The husband replied, “You are right. I will not break my promise. But he is so lonely up there.” He kissed his wife goodnight, entered the attic, ate bread and water with his son, and when the child went to sleep on the hard boards, his father’s arm was his pillow.
2. The father did not allow himself to be overcome with despair. He went on with his life. He didn’t allow the situation to ruin his own life. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, but life goes on and the best fathers simply take the situation to the Lord and leave it there. He can accomplish within the heart of the wayward, much more than we can
3. The father didn’t chase his son. Overzealous parents can sometimes push their children farther away by hounding them. The father allowed his son the freedom to choose his own path. It’s hard to do that because we want instinctively to fix our children. But wisdom says, “Stay back, hold steady. Wait for the Lord to act.” In the end this is the best course of action.
4. The father did not withhold material things from his son. This stands in contrast to those fathers who pull back and say, “Well, since you’ve decided to adopt a different life-style than I want for you, you can’t have anything of mine.” It’s tempting to try to control behavior by material means.
5. The father never gave up hope. In verse 20 we see the father looking for the return of his son. Through it all, he kept believing in his son---that he would someday come to his senses and return. I can almost see him going to the country lane every day, peering down the road, looking, longing, and saying to himself, “Perhaps today. Perhaps today.”
6. The father didn’t throw the son’s mistakes back in his face. He didn’t say, “I told you so.” He freely forgave his son and welcomed him back. As God’s children, aren’t we glad that He treats us in a similar manner?
7. The father involved others in celebrating the son’s return. This suggests to me that he had also shared his concern with them. Parents need the support of others when suffering the hurts of a wayward child. That’s one of the many advantages of belonging to a local fellowship. We can seek the prayer support of fellow believers. How sad is the picture of a dad going it all on his own. Lone Ranger Dads are to be pitied indeed.