Jesus told a parable about a prodigal son, who took his inheritance and wasted it on riotous living. However, he came to his senses and returned to his father who showed him ‘prodigal love’, throwing a party to celebrate his return (Lk 15:11-32). The story was, in fact, a picture of the love God has for all His wayward children (Mt 18:12-14).

The essence of this story is the heartbreaking testimony of many Godly parents today when their children are far from God. In the story the term prodigal describes a person who once made a clear profession of faith in Christ, yet turns their back on Him in a headstrong lifestyle decision and rejects the spiritual inheritance invested in them through their parents. Such rebellion, (which is primarily against God), manifests against parents and their authority, inferring ‘I know best…I’ll make my own way through life’. Sin always promises more than it gives, taking a person further than they want to go, and leaves them worse off than they were before. Sin promises freedom but brings slavery (Jn 8:34). Any insightful advice, even though prompted by love, is often spurned and so the parents must let their children walk away yet knowing that unwise choices will bring hard consequences.

There are several principles that believing parents can use as they deal with children who reject the way in which they were raised and live by contrary values.  During this painful period, the parents must faithfully pray for and commit their children to God, leaving the matter in His hands, awaiting signs

Pray persistently for those who have ‘lost their way’ in life – Luke 18:1

of repentance and a change of direction. The parents must keep their own counsel, not support the rebellion and not interfere, yet continue to show love as appropriate by loving the sinner, but not their sin. While there is the strong desire to step in and shield them from unpleasant consequences this is not helpful. Above all they need to trust that the Heavenly Father is waiting with open arms. Often self-inflicted misery is the means God uses to bring the wayward to a place of insight, repentance and, consequently, back to Himself, when they realise His way is the best (as it always is). While they are alive, they are still able to return.

Any beneficial help is normally rejected by the strong willed person who in arrogance and pride thinks they 'know what is best for them' and goes their own way. It's only when the bottom falls out of their world and in desperation they "come to their senses" seeing things in a new light and with humility the journey back commences.

See also: backslide, rebellion, repentance, restitution/restore, strong willed.