The Elder Brother

Lou Lotz

READ : Luke 15:11-32

“But when this son of yours came back . . . you killed the fatted calf for him!”(v. 30)

The newspaper at hand says that there is a great and growing religious yearning among nonchurched Americans. People are searching for something spiritually substantive, says the article. They hunger for God. Yet while this spiritual yearning is increasing, the membership rolls of mainline Protestant churches, almost without exception, are decreasing.

Why do you suppose that is? I wonder if one reason is that we have acquired the reputation of being the elder brother, and who’d want to come home to him? I know that reputation isn’t entirely deserved. But neither is it entirely untrue that a lot of churches view themselves as our club, rather than as God’s house, and that when prodigals do come home they are not made to feel welcome. “This son of yours,” snarls the elder son. He won’t even call the prodigal his brother.

Too many prodigals view the church a place full of elder brothers; not warm and inviting, but self-righteous and judgmental. However unfair that reputation may be, the reputation will only cease when, like the father in the parable, we open our arms to prodigals and say: “Welcome home.” Who knows, people may even begin to say again what they haven’t said since biblical times: “Behold, how these Christians love one another.”


Prayer: Lord, have mercy.