Long before becoming a parent, I developed a fear of my children one day rebelling and rejecting everything they were taught…by becoming New Orleans Saints fans (Go Falcons! #riseup). All joking aside, parents have the incredible responsibility of balancing between too much sheltering and too much freedom. In the end, no matter the outcome, where there is grace and forgiveness, there is always hope.
There is a famous teaching known as “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” that offers a reminder of that truth. The younger son demands his inheritance, leaves home, loses everything, hits rock bottom, and returns hoping he can become one of his father’s hired hands. His father sees him coming home and runs to welcome him back with open arms. Before his son can finish his apology, the father showers his youngest son with gifts that show incredible grace and forgiveness.
One of the gifts is described as “the best robe.” This detail is significant in a couple of ways. First, the robe was used to cover up the dirty, smelly rags worn by the younger son who just moments earlier in the story was herding pigs. Whether it was the father’s personal garment or simply made of the finest linen, it immediately gave the son an identity of honor. That is incredible grace.
The second way the robe-gift was significant was because of its intrinsic value. In the greek, “forgive” comes from a combination of two words – Hiémi meaning “to send” and apo meaning “from.” In other words, forgiveness, to be real, means someone has to give up something. Despite having squandered his inheritance and not being owed a penny more from his father, the gift of a valuable robe was a way for the father to say, “I still have more to give.” That is incredible forgiveness.
A first century audience would have been shocked a wealthy patriarch would so recklessly abandon cultural norms to save his son from shame they would believe he obviously deserved. Thankfully for him, his father believed in second chances. Thankfully for us, our heavenly Father does too. We should follow his example of grace and forgiveness.