The Parable of the Prodigal Son? It should be called the Parable of the Loving Father!
Who was wise enough to...
1. Let his son make his own mistakes and learn his own lessons
2. Feel compassion for his son
3. Love his son unconditionally
4. Celebrate his son's safe return
5. Meet his son where he was at
Was the father a softy, and did he let his son off easy?
Consider this: Punishment hurts, discipline teaches, but it's love that transforms. What brought the son home? Memories of lectures? Hardly. Memories of punishment? Doubt it. Wasn't it the memory of his father's love and goodness that told the son it was possible to go home?
Let's make it personal. Do you want God to punish you? That would mean death and hell; I don't think any of us want that. Praise God Jesus took that for us! How about discipline? Do we want God to teach us and disciple us into being better, more Christ-like people? Sure, we want that. But are we open to his discipline before we know he loves us? No, we're not. Love must come first.
Punishment hurts. Discipline -- done right -- can teach. But it is love that transforms.