A boy ran by a man standing on the curb. Five minutes later the boy rushed by again. After this had happened a half-dozen times, the man stopped him and asked, “What’s the idea, Sonny? What’s the rush?” The boy looked up very indignantly and shouted, “I’m running away from home!”

“Oh,” said the man, “But you’ve gone around the same block at least five times.”

“I know it!” shouted the boy over his shoulder as he started running again. “My mom won’t let me cross the street.”

Jesus told a story about a boy who ran away. It’s called The Prodigal Son and it’s found in Luke 15:11-31. Actually it’s the story about two sons – a Prodigal Son and a Good Son. One boy ran away but the other stayed home.

Many parents have this experience. A child that makes parenting a breeze and another that makes parenting a major challenge. After one you feel like you could write a book – “How to raise great kid”. After another you could write a book – “How to keep your kid out of prison, almost”. It is amazing how children growing up in the same home can go in two different directions. Jesus tells such a story about two sons – one a prodigal son and the other a good son. But be careful about how you judge these boys – the one started off bad but came back home and the other stayed home but ended up with a bad attitude.

The summary of the story is that a younger son wanted his father to give him his inheritance early so he could have a good time. He left home and wasted all his money until he was begging poor. He realized that his father’s servants were better off than he was. So, he decided to repent and come back to his father to be a servant. As he got close to home, his father saw him and ran out and embraced him. He started a celebration. But the older son was angry because his father seemed to treat him with less enthusiasm. He had stayed home and worked hard and received no party. But the father reminded him that all still belonged to him and it is good to celebrate his brother’s return.

I preached this on Father’s Day and discovered three lessons that might help you.

A Lesson for the Parent…

Be Patient. Always Love. Grant Forgiveness.

If you are a parent of a prodigal, hang in there. I don’t know of anything that hurts worse than knowing your children are far from God. When your children or grandchildren make decisions that cause you grief, be patient. Sometimes you have to let them go so they can learn the lessons of life. They need to make their own decisions and reap the consequences of their choices. But always love them. And when they come back, grant them forgiveness.

A Lesson for the Prodigal…

No matter how far you may run away, God will always love you and wants you near HIm.

This story is more than lessons for our family. It is a lesson about God’s love. Like the father in Jesus’ story, God loves you faithfully, accepts you unconditionally, and will forgive you completely. God’s reaction to your return is illustrated by Abraham Lincoln. When asked how he would treat the Confederate soldiers once the Civil War was over, rather than thoughts of execution for treason, Lincoln surprised everyone by saying, “I will treat them as if they had never been away.” Come back to your Heavenly Father.

A Lesson for the Pious…

Faithful service to God cannot substitute for genuine love for God.

The older son stayed close to his father but was not close to his father’s heart. Unlike dad, he had no heart for his brother. I think he should have gone looking for him. But instead, he was full of himself and only thought of what he should get. The lesson for many of us is that you can be at church every week doing all the right things but your heart is far from God’s heart. Rather than look down on those who are rebellious and far away from God, love them and search for them and celebrate when they come home.

Rather than two sons, there are actually three sons in this story. There is the Prodigal Son, the Elder Son, and the Only Begotten Son (Jesus). Jesus is the one telling this story. Rather than stay at His Father’s house, Jesus left Heaven and “came to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus loves and searches for those who are lost.