Love Them Like Jesus: Insights from a Prodigal

On Memorial Day, I shared a message about loving people like Jesus. This morning, I read something that may be an encouragement to parents of children who go wayward on how to love them like Jesus.

John Piper has been an influential pastor in the lives of many. When Piper’s son, Abraham, was 19 years old he walked away from his Christian faith. For the next four years, in his own words, he "just wanted to drink gallons of cheap sangria and sleep around."

The Pipers were broken-hearted. As I have always believed and taught, this could happen to the best of parents. After four years of living as a prodigal son, Abraham returned to the Lord and reunited with his parents. As the Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

Based on his experience, Abraham Piper offers the following advice to parents who have drifted away from the faith…

"Don't expect them to be Christ-like."

If your son is not a Christian, he’s not going to act like one.

You know that he has forsaken the faith, so don’t expect him to live by the standards you raised him with. For example, you might be tempted to say, “I know you’re struggling with believing in Jesus, but can’t you at least admit that getting wasted every day is sin?”

If he’s struggling to believe in Jesus, then there is very little significance in admitting that drunkenness is wrong. You want to protect him, yes. But his unbelief is the most dangerous problem—not partying. No matter how your child’s unbelief exemplifies itself in his behavior, always be sure to focus more on the heart’s sickness than its symptoms.

Welcome them home.

Because the deepest concern is not your child’s actions, but his heart, don’t create too many requirements for coming home. If he has any inkling to be with you, it is God giving you a chance to love him back to Jesus. Obviously there are some instances in which parents must give ultimatums: “Don’t come to this house if you are...” But these will be rare. Don’t lessen the likelihood of an opportunity to be with your child by too many rules.

If your daughter smells like weed or an ashtray, spray her jacket with Febreze and change the sheets when she leaves, but let her come home. If you find out she’s pregnant, then buy her folic acid, take her to her twenty-week ultrasound, protect her from Planned Parenthood, and by all means let her come home. If your son is broke because he spent all the money you lent him on loose women and ritzy liquor, then forgive his debt as you’ve been forgiven, don’t give him any more money, and let him come home. If he hasn’t been around for a week and a half because he’s been staying at his girlfriend’s—or boyfriend’s—apartment, plead with him not to go back, and let him come home.

Point them to Christ.

This can’t be over-stressed. It is the whole point. No strategy for reaching your son or daughter will have any lasting effect if the underlying goal isn’t to help them know Jesus.

Jesus.

It’s not so that they will be good kids again; it’s not so that they’ll get their hair cut and start taking showers; it’s not so that they’ll like classical music instead of Deathcore; it’s not so that you can stop being embarrassed at your weekly Bible study; it’s not so that they’ll vote conservative again by the next election; it’s not even so that you can sleep at night, knowing they’re not going to hell…

The only ultimate reason to pray for them, welcome them, plead with them, email them, eat with them, or take an interest in their interests is so that their eyes will be opened to Christ.”

I suppose if we heard from the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32, he would say the exact same things. In other words, Love Them Like Jesus.

Something to think about…

 

You can read all "12 Ways to Love Your Wayward Child” HERE.