Moral conformity vs. self-discovery

By Dave Henning / September 19, 2013

Timothy Keller begins Chapter 3 (“Redefining Sin”) of The Prodigal God by noting that Jesus uses the younger and elder brothers to symbolize the two basic ways people attempt to find happiness and fulfillment: moral conformity (elder brother) and self-discovery (younger brother).  The author adds that each paradigm colors how we see all of life, shaping our understanding of everything.

The Pharisees, the moral conformists of Jesus’s day, believed blessing and final salvation were obtained through strict obedience to the Scriptures, putting God’s will and community standards ahead of individual fulfillment.  When they failed, they were judged by the sincerity of their remorse.  Even in failure, they had to measure up!  On the other hand, those who believe in self-discovery think the world would be a better place if all barriers to personal freedom were weakened or removed.

Pastor Keller points out that our western society is deeply divided between those two approaches and can’t conceive of any other way to live.  We’re on one side or the other- us vs. them.  Jesus’s message in the parable, however, is that both approaches are wrong, and He goes on to provide a radical alternative.

Today’s question: Which of the two paradigms, moral conformity or self-discovery, was most evident in your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The faces of rebellion”

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Dave Henning

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