Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Jesus Outside the Lines, by Scott Sauls

Pastor Scott Sauls attributes much of his formation as a pastor to Tim Keller, under whom Sauls served at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York.  I don't know how much of Sauls's writing can be attributed to Keller, but they do share a style that is pastoral, thoughtful, and substantive without trivializing their subjects.  Sauls's new book Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who are Tired of Taking Sides fits that description.

Sauls starts out with a few hot-button issues of Christianity, ones which divide Christians to an extent, but which especially divide Christians from secular culture.  He calls on Christians not to be sucked into an "us vs. them" mentality, but to, on the one hand, recognize that "we should feel 'at home' with people who share our faith but not our politics even more than we do with people who share our politics but not our faith." On the other hand, "if we want to follow Jesus, we have no choice but to follow him into the world and into affirming friendships with as many non-Christians as we can."

When thinking and living like Jesus, Christians will be slow to condemn, but quick to befriend and offer hope.  Sauls clearly upholds a pro-life perspective, but calls on Christians to value all of life.  As C.S. Lewis wrote, we never meet a mere mortal.  Every person has dignity and value, whether born or unborn.  Similarly, he does not condone homosexual acts or approve of gay marriage; he writes that "no counter-voice can be found in the Bible that suggests a favorable view of homosexuality."  Yet he calls on Christians and the church to recognize the struggle of those attracted to others of the same sex and to be a place where redemptive friendship can be found.

Sauls's approach to the Christian life embraces humility, does not condemn questioning, and recognizes how imperfect all of us are.  He calls for the church (and I do mean church; he's not a fan of the churchless Christian movement) to be a place where the grace and welcome of Jesus prevail, and where the categories we try to put people into mean less and less.  I appreciated his engagement with secular writers and culture, and his invitation for non-Christians to read and to come to his church.  I was also challenged by his reminder to pursue and value relationships with non-Christians not as projects or targets for evangelism but as friends and peers.

Thanks to Edelweiss and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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