Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The elder brother

“The elder brother in the parable illustrates the way of moral conformity. The Pharisees of Jesus' day believed that, while they were a people chosen by God, they could only maintain their place in his blessing and receive final salvation through strict obedience to the Bible. There are innumerable varieties of this paradigm, but they all believe in putting the will of God and the standards of the community ahead of individual fulfillment. In this view, we only win through to happiness and a world made right by achieving moral rectitude. We may fall at times, of course, but then we will be judged by how abject and intense our regret is. In this view, even in our failures we must always measure up.”—Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, pages 29-30

<idle musing>
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Too much like what passes for Christianity in many places. But, wait, it gets better, he continues the story...
</idle musing>

“Jesus the story-teller deliberately leaves the elder brother in his alienated state. The bad son enters the father's feast but the good son will not. The lover of prostitutes is saved, but the man of moral rectitude is still lost...The elder brother is not losing the father's love in spite of his goodness, but because of it. It is not his sins that create the barrier between him and his father, it's the pride he has in his moral record; it's not his wrongdoing but his righteousness that is keeping him from sharing in the feast of the father.”—Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God>, pages 34-35

No comments: