Thursday, February 24, 2011

Grace for Both Brothers

When I was growing up, I learned the story of The Prodigal Son in what I suppose was the traditional fashion.  That is to say, the message of it was that God loves sinners, even the most vile of sinners, and his love for them is not conditioned on their behavior, but is rather a matter of free grace.  A wonderful message indeed.

In the last ten or fifteen years, I've heard the story told in a slightly different way.  It adds a much needed twist to it, rightly realizing that the story Jesus tells in Luke 15:11-32 is actually a story of two lost sons, not just one.  While the younger son was clearly lost in his sin, his older brother is equally lost in his self righteousness.  What we need is neither religion/moralism nor irreligion/relativism, but the gospel.  Tim Keller does a wonderful job of describing this in his paper, The Centrality of the Gospel.

As Henri Nouwen points out though in his wonderful book The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, we need to take care that we don't respond to this story by seeing the younger brother as the "good guy" who gets it and the older brother as the "bad guy" who doesn't.  Rather, what we need to do is see in ourselves our own tendencies to be like both the younger brother and the older brother.  And then we need to flee to Christ, for his grace is sufficient for both situations.

Matt Chandler had what I thought were some great thoughts on showing grace toward both brothers.  You can click here to download the MP3 audio file.  It's well worth the four minutes it takes to listen to it.

(HT: Vitamin Z)

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