[I] am only two chapters into The Prodigal God by Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian church in New York City and my immediate one-word response is: Amazing! Keller reveals the central message of Christianity: God’s prodigal grace toward both the irreligious and moralistic self-righteous.
In short order, Keller informs us that the story of The Prodigal Son should really be called, “The Story of the Two Lost Sons.”
Both the Older Brother and the Younger Brother are lost, but the target of Jesus’ story is not the “tax collectors and sinners” who Jesus eats with. No, Jesus is pointing sharp, outrageous and scandalous words at the religious leaders who sit in judgment of all those younger brother types.
If we are really serious about following Jesus, we have to ask ourselves, “What is the attitude of our heart toward people who don’t follow God?” Are we like the critical older brother who stands in judgment? Or, are we so like Jesus that others might say of us, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2 The condemning words of the religious leaders).
Keller emphasizes that both sons are lost. Both sons disgraced the father. The Older Brother through his moralistic conformity. The Younger Brother in his search for self-centered, self-discovery. Both are in need of relationship and grace from the Father, but like tipping tables in the temple, Jesus completely flips our understanding of sin, lostness, and our human tendency towards critique and judgment.
Keller points out that “He (Jesus) is on the side of neither the irreligious nor the religious, but he singles out religious moralism as a particularly deadly spiritual condition.”
I’ll end on this last idea, which challenges me in a very profound way in considering how well I love others.
If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishoners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did. If our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think.
Questions: In your spiritual journey, who do you identify with most: The older brother or the younger brother? How can we become more like our Prodigal God, recklessly extravagant with His love and grace?
I’d love your thoughts!