Don’t we in the church have enough problems?
Must we really go to all this bother?
Well, I wondered the same thing until I read Timothy Keller’s book, The Prodigal God.
In his chapter titled Redefining Lostness, he wrote this:
It is typical for people who have turned their backs on religion to believe that Christianity is no different. They have been in churches brimming with elder-brother types. They say, “Christianity is just another religion.” But Jesus says, no, that is not true. Everybody knows that the Christian gospel calls us away from licentiousness of younger brotherness, but few realize it also condemns moralistic elder brotherness.
Our big cities are filled with younger brothers who fled from churches in the heartland that were dominated by elder brothers. When I moved to New York City in the late 1980s to begin a new church, I thought I would meet many secular people who had no familiarity with Christianity at all. I did, but to my surprise, I met just as many people who had been raised in churches and in devout families and had come to New York City to get as far away from them as possible. After about a year of ministry, we had two or three hundred people attending services. I was asked, “Who is coming to your church?” Upon reflection, I answered that it was about one-third non-believers, one-third believers, and one-third “recovering” believers—younger brothers. I had met so many younger brothers who had been hurt and offended by elder brothers that neither they nor I were sure whether they still believed in the Christian faith or not. (emphasis mine)
They are a bother—those pesky prodigals!
A BIG bother!
Those pesky Prodigals—of ours!
(I can almost hear every “Elder Brother” mumbling under their breath, “They’re foolish. Reckless! Don’t they deserve everything they get?”)
Yeah. I’ve thought this myself in yonder days.
(Even said so.)
So why should The Church bother with calamitous rebels such as these?
Shouldn’t we just jettison this riff-raff and get on with our good n’ Godly “Christian” causes?
Ah, but let me first ask, “Whom should we jettison?”
Our foolish and undisciplined Younger Brothers, or our unloving-law-upholding Elder Brothers? Keller makes the legitimate case that BOTH brothers are lost, and both in need of repenting and returning to The Father.
We the Faithful Ones?
Doesn’t scripture say,
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6 KJV
All we like-sheep… yeah.
(So, can I ask again?)
Why, for heaven’s sake, should we in the church bother going after our Prodigals!?!
Well, perhaps the best reason I can think of, is because we who were once counted as hopelessly lost?
Like that pesky little lost and wandering sheep?
(Yeah, you know.)
Didn’t Christ go to great bother?