C.P. Traveler here again sitting in for a very busy Chuckles. It’s been a week since I last posted, so I thought I might weigh in on what’s been going on with a few thoughts.
Many of us, especially those who were enrolled in Sunday School before we could walk, have heard chatter about Pharisees. They were the ultimate “bad guys” in Jesus’ day and he railed on them often and harshly. It wasn’t so much that they were wrong in their core doctrine, it’s that they thought they had exclusive rights to it all and they had this nasty habit of making other people feel inferior if their standards (even the extra-Biblical ones) weren’t adhered to by everybody. They were the current generation of the Levites and other teachers, but oh how far they had strayed from their roots …
Two books I’ve run across drive home one of the greatest parables I believe we have from Jesus’ teaching. And, again, we’ve all heard about the Prodigal since we were knee high. There is a direct tie to the Pharisees, however, that really doesn’t get as much press as it should. If you look at the story through the lens of either Henri Nouwen (Return of the Prodigal) or Tim Keller (Prodigal God), I think you will see what I’m talking about.
Nouwen approaches the story from the perspective of Rembrandt’s painting (same title as his book). With passion, the author talks about how we each have been the first son, often get trapped being the second son, and should have a goal to become the father. At its core, Nouwen tells it as a tale of immeasurable love and grace.
Keller (I’m currently reading this one), starts by reminding us that the story portrays both sons as lost. The younger by his own base choices; the elder by his staunch self-importance. Both boys grieve their father who wants nothing more than to offer his lavish love and forgiveness on them.
And here’s the tie back to the Pharisees and our wonderful friends such as Mr. Phelps and Mr. Fuller. Keller is very forthright in stating the elder brother part of the story was directed specifically at the them and their pious religiosity. Nouwen also paints this brother with these unflattering strokes. You see, in his demanding piety, the older brother showed the utmost disrespect for his father by not going into the party and complaining that dear old dad never threw him one. He was living that formula life (much like the one so many of you remember) that says if you do all the things on the list in a perfect way, you’ll be counted among the righteous and God is obligated to reward you.
So, here we sit, a week after a trial that sought for (and found) the truth. I’m not as close to the situation as others, but my sources tell me that cover-ups, misdirection plays, and flat-out lying is commonplace in these cases. I fear there are far more incidents than most of us could imagine and I can only pray that people will step forward and call out the offenders. Do it in God’s love, certainly, but it has to stop. The Matt Jarrell case should be enough proof for anybody – and that’s a whole other topic.
We were all prodigals in open rebellion. But it wasn’t the “house rules” that made us right, it was the love of the Father. He isn’t after some laundry list of demonstrative obedience, He’s after our hearts. God is a God of relationship and He gave up His Everything to secure it. The invitation stands to join in the dance … and I feel sorry for those who still think the dance is a bad thing. They are missing out on the joy and have exchanged God’s perfect love for a cheap, harsh imitation that demands more than they can possibly deliver.
For those who are fighting hard for the abused – keep it up. You are the heroes we need and you are channels of God’s love to those impacted the most.
In His masterful love,
C.P. Traveler (Reformed Pharisee)