Wooing the Wayward: Loving Your Prodigal until He or She Comes Home

wooing-the-wayward

Shattered. Your dreams of your children growing up to be godly Christians now lay like splinters of glass on the marble floor.

“Mom, I’m gay,” your son announces.

Your daughter reveals, “Dad, I’ve moved in with my boyfriend.”

These words take your breath away. Your adult child is running not only from God, but from you as well. The deception of sexual sin strikes your family with a resounding crack and the fragments pierce your own heart.

A family portrait with your son and his partner isn’t quite what you had expected to frame and hang in the family room. The missing figure of your daughter, who has moved cross-country with her live-in boyfriend, leaves a wound that no Christian platitude can mend.

You need solid, scriptural principles as a foundation for relating to your adult children. Here are three biblical beacons to provide some guidance.

Pray Passionately

Amidst the searing pain of brokenness, reach out to the Lord, our Source of strength and hope. Pray. When you speak, you use only your words. But when you pray, you ask the Father to become involved. He truly has the power to change hearts (1 Peter 3:12, James 5:16).

Pray for your child regularly, asking God to open his eyes to the error of his lifestyle. Look for practical, specific ways you can incorporate prayer for your son or daughter into your daily routine. For example, one mom decided to meet with two other mothers for coffee each week in order to spend an hour praying specifically for their errant children. Another couple used mealtimes as their opportunity to catch up on family happenings and devoted time after the meal to focused prayer for their daughter.

In prayer, the inner turmoil of our hearts is poured out to our Heavenly Father and the peace of Christ flows in (Philippians 4:6-7). Prayer is also the key to understanding how to relate to your prodigal in a healthy way (James 1:5).

Talk Truthfully

Embrace the truth of God’s Word as you consider your family relationships. What beliefs lie beneath your son’s actions? What motivations prompted your daughter toward rebellion? Sin can impair a person’s ability to think and act according to Scripture. Some sexual strugglers may have been exposed to pornography or were victims of molestation. All have chosen to follow a sinful desire. And at the root of every sin, we usually find wrong beliefs that need to be aligned with the truth of Scripture. Rebellious behavior begins in the heart.

Embracing the truth involves a relentless hunger for Scripture—purposefully becoming aware of the Bible’s teaching on sexuality and relationships. Sexual brokenness can only be healed through the nourishment of truth and light: “but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible” (Ephesians 5:13-14 NIV).

Do your own family relationships need nourishing? In what ways? How are you handling the truth of your child’s sin? One mom admitted tearfully, “I can’t deal with this. I’m so ashamed, and I don’t want anyone to know about her!” Parents may be more concerned about how their child’s sin affects them than sorrowful about their child’s broken heart. Agree with God about your own sin and about their sin (1 John 1:9, Psalm 103:8-14). When you see the situation for what it really is, then you are equipped to move forward in the freedom that God’s forgiveness brings.

Love Lavishly

Does embracing truth mean you should just accept the sin and move on? Not necessarily.

Jesus showed the perfect balance of grace and truth (John 1:14, 17). While we still miss the mark of perfection, His balance is our aim. As you embrace truth, don’t stop loving your son or daughter. Be united with your spouse, carefully discerning the balance between loving your child and still refusing to condone his or her sinful choices. You might appropriately ask yourself, “Where do I draw the line? Will behaving graciously or offering hospitality communicate that I don’t take sin seriously?” After all, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:11, “I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.”

Perhaps Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase will help clarify Paul’s intentions. “But I am saying that you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when one of your Christian companions is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior.” (1 Corinthians 5:11 MESSAGE)

Communicating truth with love will look different for every family. Many cases call for a strong dose of tough love—gently, but firmly refusing to socialize with your wayward loved one as long as they continue to embrace sin. Or you may decide to nurture the relationship while keeping holidays and family meals off-limits. In rare cases, you may decide to welcome the “significant other” with open arms and woo them with Christ’s love.

One family chose to build a relationship with their daughter’s lesbian partner. Why? They desired to teach her by modeling biblical family dynamics. When her relationship with their daughter broke off, they maintained contact with her. As a result, those healthy relationships pointed her to the Savior and helped heal her wounded heart.

As you consider your response, ask yourself, “What do I want to see happen as I relate to my child? What will best facilitate their returning to a right relationship with Jesus Christ?” Prayerfully consider how you can show love without sacrificing truth. Whatever course you choose, be firm. Rebellious hearts may want to push limits, often to see just how resolved about them you are. Be kind, but uncompromising when it comes to your standards.

Pray passionately. Talk truthfully. Love lavishly. Whatever boundaries your family chooses to create, be sure to communicate your love and strive to build healthy relationships. These are the greatest need in your child’s life. Study Christ’s relationship with those persisting in sin (Luke 7:36-50; John 4:1-15; John 12:37-50). In every interaction, work diligently to speak the truth and show grace.

Taken from Kelly Arabie, “Wooing the Wayward: Loving Your Prodigal until He or She Comes Home,” Insights, (October 2004) 3, 6. Copyright © 2004, Insight for Living. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Written by Insight for Living Ministries staff members.

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