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We have four children now, but when our first daughter was only a year old, my husband made a rather shocking statement.

“I’d rather Abby be a prodigal son than a legalistic Pharisee.  It’s better to spend a season in the far country than an eternity in hell.”

It pierced my heart to think about Abby going through a season of rebellion, but slowly, over time I began to understand what he meant.

I agree whole-heartedly now.

I had a fire in my bones recently as I heard about a sister in Christ who had fallen into sin and in the devastation that followed, she was judged and labeled by a fellow Christian, a woman she admired for her (apparent) spiritual maturity.

It made me angry.

Of course we call sin what it is: missing the mark.

But when we truly understand grace, we also understand that there is no sin we ourselves would not commit, given the proper circumstances. That knowledge allows us to kneel in the ruins beside a broken sister and lift her head to see the face of Christ.

The last thing she needs is our judgment.  The Bible tells us that the kindness of the Lord leads us to repentance.  Our harsh words and quick judgments will not accomplish anything except to crush an already broken spirit.

There is one Judge, and one Lawgiver, and she answers to Him alone for her sin.  She doesn’t answer to us.  Our role is to restore her, gently, lovingly, graciously.

What made me so angry was that the judging person had a reputation of spirituality. But her response showed a Pharisee’s heart, ready to throw stones.  She was an ambassador for Christ, and the message she delivered was one of anger and shame heaped on the sinner.

But Christ knelt in the dirt beside the woman who committed adultery. He lifted her out of her shame and told her to go and sin no more.  He said that she who has been forgiven much also loves much.

And this, this is why we’d rather our children be prodigals than Pharisees:

Because prodigals come home. 

Yes, they fall down.  Yes, they get burned and scarred by sin.  Yes, I would spare my children that pain.

But they come home to the Father.

They feel His arms around them and they know the love that restores their souls.

I hope and pray they don’t have to spend seasons in the far country.

But better a starving season in the far country that drives them home to the waiting Father than a lifetime of living self-righteously in their own strength.