After going through the characters in the story of the Prodigal Son, Keller steps back and looks at the story as a whole. He writes of our universal longing for "home". I like how he refers to Steinbeck's East of Eden which I read last fall, and C.S. Lewis's notion of "spiritual homesickness". He quotes Robert Frost, "Home is where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." (p. 98).
Our hope is in Jesus proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven. There is a feast prepared for us at home. Keller goes on to describe how the Feast of the Father comes in four ways:
1. Experiential; 2. Material; 3. Individual, and: 4. Communal
Keller looks back on his analysis of the characters through Kierkegaard's three ways to live: aesthetic, ethical and spiritual. Ultimately, the only path to true life is through genuine faith in the Christ - the only one who offers real life.
Keller writes: "What is the point? What makes you faithful or generous is not just redoubled effort to follow moral rules. Rather, all change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out the changes that understanding creates in your heart. Faith in the gospel restructures our motivations, our self-understanding, our identity, and our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without heart-change will be superficial and fleeting." (p. 118f.)
He goes on to say, "What other incentive is there? Awed grateful love." (p. 120)
I very much appreciate Keller's work here. It is a very accessible, even entertaining read. But its value is in providing a framework - an expression of the gospel framework - through which to view the world. And it is done not just through showing us the right way. He does it like Jesus. He shows the ways we do it wrong as well. We are all at times younger brothers or older brothers. There's another way. It's the way of the gospel. It's the way of love and of life. It's the way of Christ. Awed, grateful love for the way he's loved us changes the way we see everything, including ourselves and our needs.