What should Christian parents do if their daughter runs off with her boyfriend and later seeks to return home after being dumped? Evangelist Billy Graham says she must be forgiven and welcomed back as the parents' "only opportunity" to influence her for good, with God's help.
"What your daughter did was both foolish and morally wrong, and sadly she's now paying the price for her folly," writes the 97-year-old evangelist on the website of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, in response to the question asked of him by a reader.
"But this doesn't mean you should turn your back on your daughter, or rejoice that you were right and she was wrong," Graham warns, referring to Jesus' parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32.
Graham asks if the daughter is not helped at this moment, what will likely happen to her?
"Where will she be five months from now — or five years from now? You may never see her again, and instead of learning from her mistakes and becoming a better person, she may well turn to even more destructive paths."
In the question, the reader said while his wife was willing to let their daughter move back home, "I'm not so sure."
Talking about the parable, Graham writes, "Like your daughter, this son was determined to strike out on his own and live only for pleasure. But eventually he ran out of money, his 'friends' abandoned him — and finally he repented of his folly and returned home. And what did his father do? He loved him and welcomed him home, in spite of all he'd done."
The parable gives a clear picture of God's love and forgiveness for us, "in spite of our sins," Graham adds.
"But it's also an illustration of the love and forgiveness we should extend to others. May God give you a renewed love for your daughter," he concludes.
In a Q&A published by BGEA earlier this month, Graham answered the question whether God would be angry if someone said a wrong thing while praying.
Graham urged readers to think back to the time when their children were small and learning to talk.
As parents, they weren't offended when their children made a mistake while trying to speak, or got their words confused, Graham explained. They were likely very pleased by their attempts to talk with them, perhaps rewarding their efforts and encouraging them to continue.
Graham said the same can be said about God. "In a far greater way, this is how God sees us. When we come to Christ and by faith commit our lives to Him, we become His children."