An Unconditional Loving Father (Tus Leejtxiv Uas Hlub Tas Mus Li)

By: Xh. Chia Pao Ly


Wouldn’t it be wonderful as Christian parents if our children always followed in the footsteps of our faith? Unfortunately we know that it is not always so. Many times children of Christian parents go through a season of rebellion or backsliding where they turn their backs on the Christian faith and reject the values with which their parents raised them. No family is exempt from this possibility. Some of the most godly parents who have raised their children in the faith and in the church still have children who go astray. Even Ruth and Billy Graham and their son Franklin, who for many years walked away from the faith. It is always a possibility because our children, like us, have sinful natures which can pull them away from God. They are still free beings who can make their own choices, and they do not always choose wisely or according to our wishes.

Of course we want to give each of our children the freedom to grow and develop into the person God desires them to be. I have to admit, as a parent, we have certain ideas or dreams for our children. If we are wise, we should understand that, ultimately, God has different plan for our children than we do. The life He wants for them is His will, not ours. Our desire should simply be that our children will seek God’s will for their lives, whatever that may be. But the heartache and grief to us as Christian parents when our children turn away from the faith and no longer seek God’s will for their lives. That is the situation represented here in the parable of the Prodigal Son.

The word “prodigal” in Hmong- “Ua neej ywj siab” never appears in this parable, or anywhere in Scripture for that matter. The word “prodigal” actually means “wasteful, tsis txuag; ywj siab” and the word became attached to the son in this parable because of the way in which he wasted his share of the father’s estate, qub txeeg qub tes. However, because this was also a son who had turned his back on God and family, the word “prodigal” has also come to signify any wayward child.

And so for us, the primary thought when we think of a prodigal child is not a child who is wasteful, but rather a child who has left God and home. The child does not have to physically leave home to be a prodigal. There are plenty of prodigals who still live under the same roof as their parents. But they have left home in their hearts. They have put some distance between themselves and their parents. A prodigal child can be of any age. There are many adult prodigal sons and daughters. And no matter how old they are, their parents still long for them to return to the faith.

This Father’s Day, notice the prodigal’s dad, and especially his actions in verses 20-24 in the parable. I want us to consider this question: How should we as Christian parents respond to our children when they do not follow in the Christian faith? As parents of prodigal sons and daughters, what is the proper way to reach out to our children? What is the godly response?

(Read Luke 15:20-24 and pray for the Holy Spirit to help you in this devotion)

Many parents of prodigals are in great pain over their children. We need to know how God would have us to respond to our children when they walk away from the Lord. As Hmong parents, our natural reactions are to lecture, to nag, to get angry, to despair, and finally to give up. But God shows us a better way – a way that is based on the promises and the character of God. In verses 20-24 in this parable we are given the beautiful picture of how the prodigal’s father responded to his son. This is really a picture of our Heavenly Father, and how He responds to us when we go astray. And so this is also a picture how we should respond to our children when they stray from the Lord.

How did the prodigal’s dad respond to his son? Let’s take a look at each of these responses in turn.

I. Fathers- demonstrate steadfast hope in their child’s absence.

First of all, as a father, we should demonstrate steadfast hope during our child’s absence. Once again, this may be either a physical absence or a spiritual absence. Sometimes it is both. Either way the child has left God and home, at least in his/her heart, and has thus distanced themselves from his parents.

These are difficult days for any parents. We long to see our children walking with the Lord. We know that only God’s way is the path of protection and progress and peace for our child. We also know that when any of our children step away from God’s path for them, that they will inevitably bring suffering and sorrow into their own lives. We want to spare them sorrow upon sorrow, but we cannot make their choices for them. Sin is a cruel taskmaster. And so our hearts ache for them, and for the difficult path they have chosen.

Just as this story, that as the days or months, or sometimes years of this rebellion wear on, it wears on a parent’s heart. It is too easy to become discouraged and to give up all hope of our child returning. That is when we need to depend on God all the more, because like this father in the story, we need to never give up. There is always hope.

The prodigal’s dad in the parable is a wonderful example for us in this regard. He never gave up hope that his son would one day return. Verse 20 tells us that “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him.” (Luke 15:20) I take that to mean that the father was always looking for his returen. You don’t usually notice things far off in the distance unless you are looking for them. I also don’t think it was a coincidence that he just happened to be looking on this one day of all days that his son was returning home. We are meant to understand that the father was looking every day. Every day he would scan the horizon looking for some sign of his son’s return. Why? Because he never gave up hope that his son would come back – he never stopped looking.

Our God can do all things (Matthew 19:26). He is the one who brings life forth from death, who makes a way where there is no way, who makes streams to flow in the desert. (Isaiah 43:19) God can melt a heart of stone, and soften the most rebellious spirit. He can turn the heart of a king. As Christian fathers we need never give up hope because our hope is in the Lord – the Mighty One who does great things for us – holy is his name. (Luke 1:69)

This is why Jesus told his disciples that they should always pray and not give up (Luke 18:1). 1 John 5:14-15 tells us that we have this confidence as we approach God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15)

II. Fathers- demonstrate loving compassion when their child draws near.

Secondly, parents of prodigals should demonstrate loving compassion when their child draws near. Look at verse 20 again: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20)

Parents of prodigals should demonstrate loving compassion when you have opportunity to show loving compassion to your child, in fact as soon as you have opportunity. He was looking for his son every day. But his son was absent. The prodigal child distances himself from his parents and from all those who truly love him and desire to help. There are many times when we as parents have no opportunity to show our child how much we care. And so, like the father, we patiently watch the horizon, looking for any sign that our child might be ready to return.

When that opportunity arrived for the prodigal’s Dad, he wasted no time. How did he demonstrate this compassion? He ran to his son, he embraced him, he kissed him. In running to his son the father threw off all dignity and pride. In those days it was considered undignified for a Jewish man to run. He would have to lift up the skirts of his robe; it was awkward; it just wasn’t done. The prodigal’s dad ran to his son.

Why is this important? Because the father thought more of his son than he did of himself. His heart went out to his son, and then he went out to him also. It was a sign of commitment. He didn’t wait for the son to come all the way home first. He didn’t even wait for him to come halfway. At the first sight of his son in the distance, at the very first opportunity, he ran to him. He didn’t want to take the risk of his son changing his mind and turning back around.

Don’t wait until your child comes all the way back before you reach out to him. Look for those first signs of return. And then reach out with love and compassion at the first opportunity. The prodigal’s dad went running in his robe to meet his son. Parents – be willing to sacrifice your own pride and dignity rather than risk further estrangement; demonstrate true commitment to your child. The prodigal’s dad embraced his son. Don’t hold back; welcome your child with open arms. The prodigal’s dad greeted his son with a kiss. Don’t be distant; affirm your love and affection for your child.

Once again, this is how God treats us. Romans 2:4 says it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.

III. Parents- demonstrate joyful forgiveness when their child returns.

Finally, parents of prodigals should demonstrate joyful forgiveness when their child returns. Look at verses 21-24:

What I mean by “return” is this – when the child demonstrates true confession of sin and repentance. You can exercise love and compassion when your child draws near, but you cannot truly rejoice and forgive until your child confesses and repents. Look at verse 21: “The son said to him, `Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ Now that’s true confession and heartfelt repentance. The son knew that he was wrong, he realized the pain he had caused his father, and he owned up to it. Parents, that is not the time for a lecture, but rather for celebration and forgiveness.

Parents, we are professionals at giving lectures to our children, especially when we know that they there are in the wrong. This is one of the reasons some prodigal kids don’t come back sooner is because they are dreading “the lecture.” Isn’t it interesting that the prodigal son in the parable prepared his own lecture in advance? Did you ever notice that? It’s almost as if he’s trying to fend off his dad’s lecture. Look at it, back in verses 17-20: “When he came to his senses, he said, `How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.”

He had his own lecture memorized, rehearsed and ready to go. And when his Dad came out to meet him, the prodigal didn’t waste anytime. It’s like he wanted to beat his Dad to the punch.

You see, when we confess our sin to God he doesn’t hit us with a lecture. He forgives us. In Psalm 32:5 David testifies: I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD” – and . . . God chewed me out? God made me feel real bad? God loaded me down with guilt? No . . . “and you forgave the guilt of my sin.” 1 John 1:9 tells us that “if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” That’s how God treats us when we return to him. If we want to be godly parents, we must treat our prodigal sons and daughters the same way.

Confessing prodigals don’t want to hear “I told you so.” They don’t need to be told they were wrong. They already know it, and when they return and repent all they really need is forgiveness. And not just token forgiveness, but sincere, joyful, celebrating forgiveness, not wasting any time reprimanding them for all of their wrongs, but simply rejoicing that they have returned. So parents, if you have your lecture all memorized, rehearsed and ready to go, drop it. Brilliant as it may be, make a decision now that you will never use it. When your prodigal returns, that is not a time for condemnation, but rather for celebration. Rejoice! Forgive! Celebrate!

In verse 22 the father presents his son with three things: a robe, a ring, and a pair of sandals. Each of these three things would have spoken volumes to the son.

First, he dressed his son in the best robe in the house. The best robe was a sign of honor. Think about it. The son had dishonored God and his family by his actions.

Secondly, he put a ring on his son’s finger. The ring was a sign of love, friendship and loyalty. We still use rings as a covenant or pledge today, either of friendship or marriage. What did the ring say to the son? It was as if his father were saying to him, “Son, no matter what happens, even if you should leave me again, let this ring remind you of my unconditional love for you. You are my son now and forevermore.”

Third, we have the sandals. The sandals were a sign of freedom and belonging. Only freemen wore sandals, not slaves. And only those who lived in the home wore sandals in the house. The guests took them off on arrival. And so the father was saying to the prodigal, “You are not a slave, you are not even just a guest in my house. You are my son in every way. You are free, and you belong to this home.” The father extended to his son full forgiveness and restoration.

The father also called for the fattened calf. Nothing was too good for his son. The people living in Jesus’ time did not eat a lot of meat. They saved it for special occasions. The fattened calf was a special animal that was fed and saved for an extremely special day or feast. And the father chooses this day to kill the fattened calf. Notice the father’s emotions. “My son was dead, but now he is alive. My son was lost, but now he is found.” It was as though he had received his son back from the dead.

Did the son deserve any of this? Of course not! The son did not deserve the honor of the robe, the pledge of the ring, the welcome of the sandals, the slaughter of the calf. It is all grace, because it is a picture of how God treats us. God doesn’t treat us as we deserve. He treats us with grace. He honors us, he loves us with an everlasting love, he welcomes us back as his sons and daughters with the full rights and privileges of children within the home.

Parents, when your prodigal son or daughter returns to you with sincere confession of sin and heartfelt repentance, restore them to relationship. Honor them, pledge your love and loyalty to them, welcome them back into the house as your precious son or daughter. You probably don’t have a fattened calf out back, so improvise. Take them out to the fanciest restaurant in town! Rejoice! Celebrate! Your child was dead, but now is alive. Your child was lost, but now is found.


Parents, how should you respond to a prodigal son or daughter? Like the prodigal’s dad did – with hope, love and forgiveness.

1) First, demonstrate steadfast hope in your child’s absence. Never give up on them. Pray for them daily. Cling to God’s promises. Put your hope in God.

2) Secondly, show loving compassion when your child draws near. Keep scanning the horizon for that first sign of change. Reach out in love when you have the opportunity. Drop your dignity and pride. Don’t let anything stand in your way. Welcome your child. Let your child know your love and affection for them. Remember, it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance.

3) Finally, demonstrate joyful forgiveness when your child returns. When your child returns with a sincere and repentant heart, forget the lecture. Instead, forgive, restore and celebrate.

Don’t give up hope! I pray with you that the day of restoration and celebration will come soon. What a wonderful day that will be!