The Gospel of Jesus Christ is…
We are more sinful and weak than we ever dared to admit and…
We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope.
A little about me before I start this series.
I believe that God has put it on my heart to clearly discuss this parable in great amounts of detail for several reasons. I have clearly been a part of and I have seen legalistic, elder brother tendencies in Churches and relationships and I have seen its devastating effects in how people deal with issues. These elder brother tendencies are often touted as godly. However, they are also keeping hurting and lost people outside the Church as Church people “put on” their godly, legallistic, and self righteouss masks of obedience on.
Normally younger brother sins are easily recognized by Churches. However elder brother sins tend to go unrecognized in Churches. Since “elder brothers” hang out it in Churches or hang around the Father as the parable tells then its quite possible that elder brothers are workign their way into Church leadership if this type of sin is not recognized.
To the degreee that the elder brother sin component is allowed to go unchecked in peoples lives and in Churches, churches can be come ineffective and inward focussed and lose sight of their vision. This is partially because Elders and Pastors instead of managing a vision will spend time acting as the couselors to the elder brothers of the Church and managing internal issues. If the elder brother sin component is large in a Church then hurting, lost people see no way to get connected to Churches since they sense the self rightousness of the Church body.
This is why the 3 approach method seems so clear to me to fight the elder brother effect in Churches as well as clearly demonstrating the error of the ways of the younger brother. It clearly says the “Gospel approach” (that I will eventually outline in a later BLOG) is not a half way point between the younger brother, irreligious approach and the elder brother, religious approach. Rather, the Gospel method is a third way altogether and completely different from either the sins of the younger brother or the sins of the elder brother. If you can clearly show this third “Gospel” path then both the religious and irreligous alike can see the errors in their ways and start following the Gospel path.
A word of caution about me however. I normally see myself as the younger brother that has found the Gospel approach. However, as I have studied and thought over this parable, I have seen that I also have some elder brother tendencies. I am a pharisee about elder brother pharisees. I am self righteouss about people that I sense are self rigtheouss. This is paritally because I have seen how this tendency cripples the recovery of marriages in crisis and cripples churches by making them inward focused as opposed to outreach oriented.
In Tim Kellers book “The Prodigal God”, he says:
If Jesus was likened to a lake, then the famous parable of the Prodigal Son would be a spot where we could clearly see to the bottom [paraphrased].
I believe if you understand DEEPLY this parable then you will discover the secret heart of Christianity.