The Biblical parable of the Prodigal Son has always mystified me a little.
In the New Testament Jesus tells the parable of the man with two sons. One son asks for his inheritance early and he gives it to him. This son squanders his inheritance. He ends up deeply in debt and will be forced to work in a demeaning and menial job. Finally, he decides to turn to his father for work. His father sees him returning home and runs out to greet him on the road. He hugs him and kisses him and wraps him in his robe. the son confesses his mistakes and begs to serve his father. rather than allowing him to work for him as a servant he throws a huge celebratory party. His other son feels slighted because he had stayed true to his father and his teachings. The father chastises the more righteous son and commands that he be merry and glad “for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost and is found.”
I always understood the basic underlying message of this parable. The father is an example of God the Father and the sinning son is us. However, I was conflicted by the father’s answer to the righteous son. His command to rejoice and accept the brother back into the fold seemed a bit cold to me.
Lately, I’ve been doing a great deal of studying. I’ve been reading a book titled “Beyond Consequences, logic and control. A love based approach to helping children with severe behaviors. Volume 2“. This book is written under the precept that Love really is enough, that we can help our children if we can just exhibit unconditional love. Which brings up the question. What is unconditional love? two concepts that this book presents are:
“unconditional love is love without requiring anything in return- no matter what”
“Love celebrates the moment of victory and let’s go of the past”
Both of these thoughts made me think of and then re-evaluate the story of the Prodigal Son. Could the story of the prodigal son be one of the best pieces of parenting advice ever given? That the ultimate job of a loving parent is to refrain from judging our children, to love them “without requiring anything in return”, to welcome them with open arms at every turn? No matter what?
Upon further research I found a talk by Elder John K. Carmack (A leader in the LDS church) titled “When our children go astray“. He says “We are admonished not to judge others unrighteously. Harsh condemnation of others by us will bring us to similar condemnation from our Heavenly Father.”
So, back to my book and another beautiful quote. “Love stays focused on the relationship and the experience, NOT the outcome”. IS that what our Father in Heaven does for us? He knows US, knows our faults, knows the mistakes we will make and YET he does not judge us, he just waits and loves us and welcomes us home with open arms when we repent and return to him. AND if my Father in Heaven does it, should I not emulate him?