Helping or Hurting?

Helping or Hurting?

more from PRODIGAL GOD

The message of great grace in Keller’s book was a reminder of freedom for me. In the parable of the prodigal son (or, as Keller points out, in the parable in which Jesus begins, “There was once a father . . . .”, indicating the true protagonist in the narrative), I relate most to the elder brother. I have mistakenly believed that doing good, being right, and working hard would earn me favor with God. I would have told you this was not true, but I would have been lying (even to myself).

The true message of the gospel is extravagant love, forgiveness, sacrifice, and reconciliation. I’m a part of that story and completely on the receiving end – so are you. So as I fight my moralistic, man-pleasing tendencies, I wonder if my focus here on this blog is wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t point out ways to become more spiritually disciplined. Maybe I’m just busy making more older brothers like me.

I don’t want to do that because I believe there is a feast that awaits us and all we have to do is walk through the doors. So I don’t want to distract you (or me) with ideas about washing garments or hands or faces. I just want us to see how wonderful Father is and want to be with Him at the feast no matter what. I want to inspire worship, not create more reasons for you to feel guilty.

Is this blog was too focused on elder brother ideas? With all my talk of humility and making good choices, am I leading you into the ditch of religion?

One section of Keller’s text focuses on the materialistic nature of salvation – the way God really is interested in this material world and its restoration. Keller’s prime example: most of Jesus’ miracles are about the restoration of the way things ought to be in this world he created – disease doesn’t belong and death has to go. He cares about our world.

So how is it not a works mentality when Jesus tells his followers that on the judgement day we’ll be asked if we have fed, clothed, and sheltered those in need?

He is not saying that only the social workers get into heaven. Rather, he is saying that the inevitable sign that you know you are a sinner saved by sheer, costly grace is a sensitive social conscience and a life poured out in deeds of service to the poor. Younger brothers are too selfish and elder brothers are too self-righteous to care for the poor.

This reminds me that the answer is really about my focus. I’m not going to get into heaven because I was spiritually disciplined, but, I desire spiritual discipline because I’m going to heaven. The focus is my relationship with Him – and the way that relationship changes my perspectives, my actions, and my purposes in this life.

Still sounds like a Rare Rock to me! What do you think?

10 Replies to “Helping or Hurting?”

  1. Felicity, I appreciate how you have embraced the position of the “church kid” and are working through the Elder Brotherisms that are a natural fallout of the environment in which we were raised and thrived in.

    I read The Prodigal God when it first came out and was stunned when I realized how much that parable was about me and the party pooper that I had become.

    You alluded to something previously on a comment on my blog that there are some things that it takes us church kids longer to figure out. I think you are right. This is something I want to give more thought.

    If you liked The Prodigal God, I also highly recommend Keller’s Counterfeit Gods.

  2. I love that take on the did-you-feed-my-sheep thing, that it’s really about whether or not we identify with people in need. It’s when we recognize we are one of them that we most want to help. I was really intrigued when you said the book made you rethink the whole focus of your blog. I like it here, though. When you shine a light on people who are helping in the world or on what you call spiritual disciplines, I don’t feel guilt-ridden. I feel inspired and I see more ways to be free.

  3. I think you do a good job of showing us that spiritual disciplines are a natural fruit in the life of a redeemed soul. Having been both the prodigal and the elder brother, I’m hoping to grow up like the Father in this tale.

    1. Yes, and I don’t want to spoil it for you if you want to read it, but Keller also points out how Jesus is the true elder brother – how he gave up his own inheritance for all of us. Powerful stuff.

  4. “I want to inspire worship, not create more reasons for you to feel guilty.”
    I agree with Serenity, I don’t feel guilty when I read your blog, I’m inspired by your insight and eloquent way of stating what might be painful for some to hear. You’re good………

  5. I love coming to your blog home and getting great book recommendations. I have to tell you, I’ve never felt guilty reading your blog, more like “inspired” as Seren says.

    You’re THAT good. =)

  6. Guilty no, challenged, at times. But it is a good thing to be challenged, so long as I keep it in perspective. So I do appreciate the reminder of perspective. I am guilty of oftentimes having the “work harder, be better” mentality instead of working out of love or relationship.

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