Every now and then The New York Times has a special article about Christianity. David Brooks has written one in an Op Ed piece entitled, "The Prodigal Sons," and references Tim Keller. If you have not read Keller's book, The Prodigal God, do read Brooks' article, and then I encourage you to get a copy of Keller's book and read it.
In his Op Ed article, Brooks notes how the attitudes of the prodigal son and his older brother are both seen in American society today, especially in our political culture. This is an excellent article with keen insight into problems in American culture, today.
In my view, too many modern American Evangelical churches are characterized both by the attitude of the older brother in Jesus' parable of the prodigal son, and also by the attitude of the Laodiceans as described in Revelations chapter 3 vs. 14-22.
The older son's attitude was cold hearted and judgmental, assuming the blessings he had been given were earned by his good behavior. The younger son was the libertine who had no desire for a relationship with his father until he was at the mercy of the consequences of the way he lived his life.
In my view, the attitude of the Laodicean church in Revelations chapter 3 church parallels the attitude of the older brother in many ways. Notice, Jesus does not mention any theological problems concerning the teaching in this church, nor does He mention any specific moral, ethical problems. Of the seven messages to the churches in Revelations chapters 2-3, only Smyrna, the persecuted church, is spared a warning from Jesus. Indeed, Jesus mentions both good and bad things about each of the other churches...except of Laodicea! Jesus has nothing good to say about this church.
Laodicea is certainly a church made up of believing Christians because it is represented by a lamp stand/candlestick with the other churches in the vision John writes down. Yet, Jesus stands at the door this theologically correct and ethical church, and He knocks to enter in and have fellowship with these Christians (vs. 20). Indeed, this is the only church among the seven in this scripture passage that makes Jesus want to throw up (literally, to "vomit"; see vs.15-16).
Many of us are spiritually hurting. The "older brothers" shun us in our churches, and the "younger brothers" are no better off then we are in society. So where do we go?
We need to go to the Father through Jesus, and "we" means both older brothers and sisters and younger brothers and sisters; those in churches and those outside these churches. Then we need to meet together regularly as a body of broken people being healed by Jesus. For this type of church to exist, it needs a spiritual leader, specifically a missionary pastor who sees his calling as a mission from God, rather than a "womb-to-tomb" profession (more on this in an upcoming post). These are rare leaders, though. May God raise up such leaders from among us.