There is an interesting comparison between two fathers mentioned in scripture, the Father of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 and the Father of Absalom in 2 Samuel (chapters 13 to 18).
Both these fathers had something to forgive their sons. The 'Prodigal Son' despised his family inheritance and the traditional way of life. Like many a young man, he wanted freedom, argued to get his way, and having obtained his 'rights' went off beyond the reach of criticism to follow a way of life that his father could hardly approve.
Absalom, among the macho company of King David's sons, murdered his half brother Amnon in revenge for a sexual attack upon his sister Tamar. He escaped to his mother's family home in the north. Then after three years David longed to have Absalom back, but when he returned he was not allowed into his father's presence at court for another two years. Absalom set himself to become popular with the people, and after four more years staged a coup against his father, who had to escape beyond the River Jordan. Soon David had gathered an army to protect his life against Absalom.
Both fathers, when the crunch came, forgave their sons. When the Prodigal Son returned, he received a loving welcome, forgiveness for desertion and folly, and a feast in his honour. David, when battle was joined between his army and Absalom's, gave his commanders instructions not to harm Absalom, whom he still loved. "Deal gently with the young man Absalom, for my sake."
The two outcomes were radically different, but each led to noteworthy words from the respective fathers. Despite opposition from an older brother, the Prodigal's father explained, "How could we help celebrating this happy day? Your brother was dead and has come back to life, was lost and is found." Absalom, however, was killed by David's commanders, and David cried, "O my son! Absalom, my son, Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son."
One is apt to wonder to what extent the attitudes of these fathers contributed to the outcome. Both loved their sons very deeply. The Prodigal's father had the wisdom to let go the chains which tied him to family expectations, so that when he wished to return the way was open. King David on the other hand might in some ways be thought responsible for his son's conduct. David's personal life in the matter of Uriah's wife set a bad example. He tolerated behaviour among his sons which more personal attention from him might have checked. In forgiving Abasalom's first crime, he only half forgave ‑kept him at a distance, and did not concern himself with his 'political' activities. In fact, did he really know his son? At the end , he could only grieve for him with pathetic longing.
Love, on its own, is not enough. Our love for others should be accompanied by personal knowledge and wise treatment. Even if these are lacking, love may bridge the gap and remedy our shortcomings, yet we cannot rely on mere emotion. Our heavenly Father loves us wisely, with discipline, and knows us through and through. Can our love be like His?