There are lessons we can take from the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. One of them is that when someone has wronged you but genuinely desires to make amends after some time, there is a need to meet him halfway.
What I mean by meeting the offender halfway is that you help him carry out his decision to make up, instead of making it hard for him. To say sorry, for a guilty person, already feels like a mountain to climb. The lyrics in one of English singer Elton John's songs say that the word “sorry” is the “hardest word.” Yet it is a simple term.
What usually makes apologizing even more difficult for the offender is the battle with ego that goes on within him. He also must grapple with the fear of humiliation as well as the realization of failure that overwhelm him. The concepts of competition and success are so pervasive in society in our day that conceding one’s faults is viewed as an admission of defeat and a sign of failure.
But there is always this temptation for the offended party to make the offender feel bad about the sin committed. People easily yield to this temptation depending on how embittered they have become due to the grudge they carry.
Welcoming someone taking steps to reconcile who has done you wrong can help lift the weight of embarrassment off their shoulders. The father in the narrative in Luke 15 literally met his repentant son halfway. The son was on his way home, still “a great way off” when “his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him” (v. 20). The father seems to have been waiting for his son.
Not only was the father willing to welcome the lad, he was also happy to embrace him. This guilty child had come to his sense, admitted his mistake, and made effort to return home. Seeing his father putting himself within his reach must have freed him from the prison of guilt. It must consequently have given him the strength to pour his heart out in apology. Verse 21 says, “And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” What an emphatic turnaround! The child who thought he could do without his father, and for that reason went away from home, has become humble. He asked to be a servant in his father’s house (v. 19).
The paternal attitude being exemplified in Luke’s story is not to be limited to the parent-child relationship. It’s needed in any relationship, be it one involving two colleagues at work, husband and wife in the home, teacher and student in school, brothers and sister in the church, etc.
Contextually, the parable of the prodigal son was spoken to the Pharisees and scribes because they were critical of Jesus for His association with publicans and sinners. These religious people had no idea what forgiveness meant. So, the Lord taught them this story, together with two others (the parables of lost sheep and of the lost coin), to teach them the truth about compassion and empathy.
As much as the individual that has been sinned against needs to have his hurt healed with a genuine apology, the one at fault equally needs to be shown mercy with great care and love. So many strained relationships between members of one family, friends, spouses and neighbours could be avoided when willingness to repent and desire to forgive meet halfway.