In preparation for our youth group’s winter retreat, I have been studying a ton on the parables of Christ in the Gospel of Luke. As part of the prep, I read The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Timothy Keller.
I must admit that I am a fan of Keller’s writing. I have read The Reason for God and King’s Cross, and my wife and I are currently reading The Meaning of Marriage together. Keller has a gift in conveying the gospel in simple yet profoundly true statements. When I read one of his works, I am highlighting sentences and phrases on most pages.
This appreciation of Keller’s writing continues with The Prodigal God, which focuses on the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). In this book, he tells the radical idea of the gospel: that God loves us, even when we reject him and go our own way. Keller identifies that the story’s focus is not just on the younger (or prodigal) son, but rather on both sons. Both sons are guilty of rejecting their father’s love and care – one blatantly when he asks for his inheritance now, the other subtly when he refuses to join in the festivities for his lost younger brother. The father goes out to meet both sons separately looking to reconcile with them. The younger son repents and is ushered back into the arms of the father. The parable ends before we find out the elder brother’s response to the father, leaving us hanging.
Through this parable, Keller identifies two types of people that are “lost.” First, there are the “younger sons” – those that look to experience life on their own, without God’s assistance. This would be a vast majority of those outside of churches. Second, there are the “elder sons” – those whose pride and self-righteousness keep them distant from God. Sad to say, this likely consists of a large portion of those inside churches. It is only through the unsurpassed grace and mercy of God that either of these brothers can be united with Him.
This book is a great giveaway book to seekers that visit your church or ministry, especially those that have had negative experiences with the church [elder brothers] in their past.