First off…apologies for missing last week. I was in North Carolina for the weekend and with a big three-day event coming up at work without a secretary, it just didn’t happen.
This week I want to do something a bit different and offer a book review of sorts. Several times in recent months people have told me, “You have to read God Is Love: Rediscovering Grace in an Ungracious World by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland (Harper: San Francisco, 2004). It sounds like you.” So, finally, I did pick it up. My friends spoke truth. It sounded so much like me in places that I was tempted to pull up some of my past sermons to see if I should be filing a plagiarism suit! That would be ungracious, of course, as well as untrue. But certainly we are on the same page—which means that my assessment is that it’s a great book.
Instead of talking about it, I would rather quote from it to give you a flavor of its insight. Happy Friday!
[In observing a typical “turn or burn” altar call at an event where his youth group was in attendance…p. 24] “I noticed a disturbing pattern. The young people in our group who went forward were from negligent and abusive families. Those who remained seated came from healthy, loving families. That night I realized how fear manipulates. I recognized how Christianity has preyed on the insecure and anxious.”
[After quoting a passage from C.S. Lewis that expresses compassion for those who try their best to escape sin but often fail because they have been “poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels.” p. 77] “Many of us find it easy to judge and hate because we’ve not made the effort to know and understand. We assign people to hell who’ve spent their lives trying to climb out.”
And again in the same general context (p. 78), “Empathy isn’t about knowing all the sordid details of another’s life. It is about remembering our own faults and failures and realizing others have theirs.”
From p. 111, “Sadly, the religious life and the gracious life are often at odds. Many churches, synagogues, and mosques, rather than being orchards of trees bursting with fruit, have been barren wastelands where grace is diminished, if not opposed. Instead of being encouraged to produce fruit, we’ve been trained to be fruit inspectors. We’ve been so busy building walls around our particular orchards that we haven’t realized how ugly, gnarled, and unproductive they’ve become. Religion, rather than being a gracious force in the world, has been part of the problem.”
From p. 137, “We are most like God when we love each other.”
After reminding us on p. 145 that Geneva reformer John Calvin, “had Servetus burned at the stake for calling Jesus ‘the eternal Son’ rather than ‘the Son of the Eternal God,’ he writes on p. 148, “Becoming gracious will require a reformation that will make Luther’s look like redecorating. It will require us to abandon our claim to be favored children. We’ll have to surrender the Bible as our ace in the hole and Jesus as a backstage pass. The Church will have to serve, rather than dominate, the world. Christianity will need to reclaim its most distinctive doctrine—the universal grace of God. Hell and damnation will no longer be tools of the trade. We’ll need to identify Christians not by what they believe about Jesus, but by their willingness to be like him.”
Lastly, from page 176, “A gracious Church is a Church willing to pull the cross down from its steeple and shoulder it in the world.”
Amen and Amen.
SpiritWalkers is available in audio as a podcast. Visit www.annerobertson.com/poddevotions.html to subscribe or to listen online.
Be sure to check out my books: Blowing the Lid Off the God-Box and God’s Top 10: Blowing the Lid Off the Commandments. Order now on Amazon.com or check local bookstores.