One of the best books I’ve ever read is “The Prodigal God” by Tim Keller. It is a book written about the famous parable Jesus tells in Luke 15:11-32, “The Prodigal Son.” It just opened my eyes to a lot in my own life and of course, in the lives of those around me.
Basically, we pretty much fit into two categories. We are either self-righteous like the older son, meaning we do the right things at the right times in the right ways or we are rebellious like the younger son, meaning we do things our own way. At times, we move from one category to another depending on the circumstances of our lives.
I normally fall into that first category. I am a rule-follower. I want instructions and all the details of how something should be done so that I can do it correctly and as perfectly as possible. And I get mad when others aren’t following the rules. I will argue with people (and more specifically, my husband, who more consistently falls into the second category) about those rules. When people want to work around those rules or when the rules aren’t clear or when people say things like “Let’s just do it our way and then if we get in trouble, we’ll fix it,” I get frustrated. If you know me well, you probably know this about me!
I’ve been thinking a lot about churches, too, though and realized that the churches I’ve attended fall into these categories as well. On the one hand, you have our traditional churches. They meet every Sunday morning at 11am, Sunday night around 6pm or 7pm, and Wednesday night around 6:30pm. They have a constitution and/or bylaws; they have specific ceremonies done at specific times; they have a pianist and/or an organist, but absolutely no drums! And they have a bulletin that details the layout of each service that must be followed exactly. On the other side, you have these other churches. They meet Sunday mornings, normally at an odd time; they don’t have a Sunday evening service or a Wednesday prayer meeting service. They have small groups that meet through the week. They are big on having a band complete with several guitars and a drum set. They have videos and media outlets. They try to downplay any affiliations they have with any of the more traditional denominations (e.g. Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.).
It just seems funny to me that no matter how hard we try, we always seem to either be big on following all the rules set forth by the powers that be or we want to break them all. We can never completely break free from both categories on our own.