The role of parenthood has taught me many things since I became a father almost four and a half years ago. I have learned a deeper meaning of love, I have experienced the joy that I did not think was possible, and overall I have received one of the greatest blessings in my life with my son. I also have learned a new level of anger, confusion, and forgiveness that I would have never experienced without my son. Just the other day we were playing in the living room with some of his toys. It was very sweet, we were laughing and having a good time. About 20 minutes into playing, he came up to me and, very gently, gave me a hug. Just as I was about to say, “I love you, buddy,” he slapped me in the mouth just about as hard as a 4-year-old could. I was enraged, but I also knew that I am trying to teach my son about Jesus. First of all, the most important job I have as a father is to raise my son up to be a man that hears the Gospel, loves Jesus, and surrenders his life to Him as Lord and Savior. One way, if not the most important way, I can do that is to model forgiveness to him.
The story of the prodigal son is one that I often run back to when it comes to how I should teach my son forgiveness. In this parable, the son asks for his inheritance, or his share of property that would be coming to him when his dad died. In this story, he seeks the inheritance early so that he could leave his father and do what he wants. This alone would be enough to break my heart. The son is essentially saying to the father, you are as good as dead to me and I want nothing to do with you. He is basically saying, “I want the money that will come to me once you are dead.” Most of us would have a hard time forgiving our children if they were to do something of this caliber to us. However, as we read later on in the parable, it says, “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:24).
What is amazing about what the father does here is that before the son could get the planned apology that he had for the father out, he was already embracing him and telling his servants to get a party ready because his son had returned. This shows that the father was not waiting for an apology and he was not waiting for his son to return the money. He had already forgiven his son in his heart and when he saw his son returning all he could do was rejoice.
My question is then, as parents, how can we forgive in this way and model this forgiveness for our children? We must always remember the cross and how God has forgiven us of everything. Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we had done nothing to receive forgiveness from God, Christ died for us so that forgiveness of all our sins may be possible. Remembering this is the way that we can forgive not only our children but also everyone in our lives.