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How to Love a Prodigal Son or Daughter

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Some know all too well the challenges of loving a child who leaves not just the home, but the faith as well.

Many Bible stories remain unknown and unheard by most people living in a 21st century culture. But others have actually become fixtures in our everyday verbiage and lingo—stories like Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son.

The story has many components and much to unpack for biblical exegetes and theologians alike, but the main point of the plot line is simple: a father has two sons—one of them leaves, squanders his inheritance, and later returns in desperation looking for forgiveness. The father, with joy, embraces his wayward son and celebrates his return. The father’s other son becomes frustrated with the situation, focusing primarily on his own obedience and his brother’s flamboyant sin.

The story, besides offering us a chance to analyze compelling themes related to a father’s love for his son and a brother’s ungracious heart, also serves as a picture of God’s own saving work in each of our lives. We see the father (the God figure) running to greet his son (the prodigal), who, like us, receives forgiveness, despite how undeserving he really is.

It’s a story that points us straight to grace and to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Some parents out there might read this story and pick up on grace, the gospel, and themes related to God’s love. But many also can’t help but see their own family’s story sitting there between the lines. Some know all too well the challenges of loving a child who leaves not just the home, but the faith as well.

As a part of one of the first research projects I led at LifeWay Research, we conducted a study to look at the number of students who drop out of the church after high school or during their college years.

For many years, people …

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Source: Christianity Today Magazine

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