Rule Keeping in a City of Elder Brothers

I live in a very Elder Brother kind of city.

Sure, there are ever-growing pockets of Younger Brother elements here, though.

But for the moment, my focus is this Elder Brother element.

I am, of course, reflecting on the parable of the two sons in Luke 15.

Much of the focus people have on this passage is on the Younger Brother. Rightly so, mind you, but it’s not the whole of the focus we should have.

It should be obvious the Younger Brother was only after the Father’s stuff. He wasn’t interested in the Father himself (v.12). The Younger Brother threw off all of the Father’s rules in order to gain the Father’s stuff. But notice the Father was gracious, merciful, and loving to the Younger Brother, in that, the Father came out to meet the Younger Brother (v. 20). The Father loved the Younger Brother and entreated him to come.

What might be less obvious: the Elder Brother did the same thing only in the opposite way. The Elder Brother kept all of the Father’s rules in order that he might get his Father’s stuff (v. 29). However, the Father came out to the Elder Brother to entreat him to come (v. 28).

The Father is Good to His sons.

The point I want to bring out: Rule keeping does not necessarily equal true spirituality or true Christ-likeness.

Forcing others to keep rules for the sake of rule-keeping does not discipleship make.

Forcing others to keep rules does not heal those who are hurting. Forcing others to keep rules does not settle a trouble heart. It does not remove fear.

In fact, since rule-keeping is performance-based, fear of man will be heightened. It does not produce the fear of God.

The song, Start Over says,

“To the broken hearted that wished that they’d never been born, never been torn, never sinned, never disobeyed, I know you think there’s no hope, but that ain’t true, I know you feelin’ regret
(Like I) brought this all on myself
(Like I) messed it up big time, and this time I don’t deserve God’s help
(Thinking) how can God forgive me after knowin’ what I did (can He?)
After knowin’ that I hid from Him, and I stayed away and backslid
Jesus came for the sick (so true)
Jesus came for the weak (amen)
Jesus came to give good news and have set the captives free (amen)
Jesus came for the poor (amen)
Jesus came with the keys
Jesus came to remove the chains so the prisoners are released.

Rule keeping does not do this. It binds prisoners to what other people expect them to do. And when the rules are broken or not lived up to, shame and guilt rule.

Hurting people do not need rules. They need the Savior. They need Jesus.

What do I mean by all of this?

South Carolina, but more specifically, Greenville is supposedly the buckle of the Bible Belt. But Greenville has become a city of Elder Brothers.

Don’t get me wrong, there are loving, kind, generous, gracious, Christ-like people here who reach out to those in need.

These Christ-like individuals are the exception, not the rule.

As a result of this Christian bubble, or better stated, Moralist Bubble, aka Elder Brother Bubble, we have failed to transform our culture.

Case in point: South Carolina has been ranked number one in domestic violence, more specifically men killing women. In the nation. Again.

Not to mention the number of sex offenders.

“See, His love is deeper than the ocean floor
Run to His arms like an open door
God the Father sent the Son
So men can come and be free and ain’t gotta run no more
Come to me, all who are weary; with heavy burdens, I’ll give you rest
Separated you from the sin, as far as the east is from the west
Thrown in the sea of forgetfulness
What sin? What offense?
And when them waves come crashing in, I’ll calm the winds in your defense
So, whatever it is that you’ve done
He put that punishment on His Son
You’ll never come under His condemnation… Satan and his accusations
So, dry your eyes, lift up your head
Hallelujah! God is not dead!
Plus He gave us His peace, and He took our guilt on the cross instead
Took our place and now we embrace
A clean slate with the eyes of faith
We know unfailing love, unfailing love, it’s not too late, start over.”

We don’t need more rule keeping and putting people on probation which is unwaveringly inept and powerless to change lives. We need the cross.

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