Sunday, March 08, 2009

Raising the third brother

Parents fall into different traps along the way of raising their children. Sometimes they are too worldly and their children reflect that. Other times they see that trap, but they overreact, and instead of worldliness their children develop a joyless self-righteousness. I've fallen into both these traps, some for long periods of time, and value advice on steering clear of both.

Marvin Olasky, in a really good WORLD column, offers a clear alternative. Picking up on Tim Keller's book The Prodigal God, he calls for raising the third brother. We all know the wrecked life of the first brother in our Lord's tale of the prodigal son. And a few spot the more subtle glimpse of his older brother, who is externally "righteous" but internally full of dead men's bones. Elder brothers lack love, charity, compassion, and a sense that all of us are in this mess together.

What's rare, Olasky points out, are third brothers who know deeply that the Father loves them and have patience and love for both the elder and younger brothers.

Third brothers ask pointed questions, and here are ones for each of us to answer: Am I a younger, elder, or third brother? Can we, through God's grace in our parenting, avoid raising elder- and younger-brothers?

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