All Christians know that Jesus saves, but what happens when those same Christians allow their flawed humanity to get in the way of God's message of love through salvation that they're supposed to be spreading? In our world today, it seems that Christians are most in need of being saved from ourselves and the toxic behaviors and misinformed theology in which we've been engaging. For anyone who is troubled by the current state of the church, Morgan Guyton offers twelve antidotes to the destructive attitudes that have taken root and gives us a road map to becoming more effective participants in conveying God's message. Most of all, he gives us hope by showing us that Jesus is still out there saving the world in spite of our own spiritual failings.
I'm fairly confident in my reviewing skills, except when it comes to non-fiction, especially non-fiction that's as deep and philosophical as How Jesus Saves the World from Us. Don't get me wrong, it was an awesome read, but one that I have a feeling I'll have to go back and re-read a few times before everything fully sinks in. Much of it did make a huge impact on me in the moment, but since I read it only once or twice a week over the course of a month and a half in preparation for my latest church book club meeting, there are some of the earlier parts that I don't remember as clearly. Still, each chapter had a profound statement to make and one that I think more Christians should be open to exploring.
I was particularly struck, as were others in my book club, by the sub-title of the book 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity. Christianity should never be toxic, and yet because imperfect people are interpreting scripture and spreading the message of God, oftentimes it can become corrupted by wrong-headed, if not outright dangerous theology. I've seen the effects of wrong-headed theology in some churches I've attended in the past, and yet in spite of that, I've still seen God move in those environments, so I know that the title of this book is true. As a writer, I've also been researching spiritual abuse for my latest novel, and in that capacity, I've also been exposed to an extreme form of toxic Christianity that I'm reluctant to even call Christianity. That's because it's so fundamentalist as to cause severe physical and emotional trauma, and sometimes even death, to many of the people who are enmeshed in it through it's dangerous teachings. So I'm keenly aware of these perversions of Jesus's message of love and salvation.
Morgan Guyton posits that when we're more focused on following a set of rigid rules and regulations, we're actually focused more on ourselves and less on God and being his hands and feet in the world, a position with which I wholeheartedly agree. He proposes twelve specific areas of our spiritual lives in which we need to take a step back, not only from this rigidity, but also from the ways in which our humanness has perverted the beautiful simplicity of God's message. Examples of this are how worship in some churches has become more of a performance than an expression of love directed toward God, or how even if we sacrifice of our time and ourselves to do things for others, but aren't doing it with mercy and compassion, we're completely missing the point. The author continues throughout the book to express this dichotomy in each of the remaining ten chapters, showing the reader how to shed human authority for God's authority, and in doing so, recapturing something of God's message that's been lost.
Mr. Guyton also explains why Christians should never have an "us versus them" mentality, especially when it comes to those of our own faith. There are over 43,000 Christian church denominations worldwide, which IMHO, is more a testament to human faults and foibles than anything to do with God and His message. The author demonstrates through his own story how each Christian is on his or her own unique spiritual journey, and how God can speak to us in a variety of different ways and though different people. I can personally attest to this as well, because I've learned things about God and my relationship to Him through some denominations which I now consider more flawed than others and of which I would no longer be comfortable being a part. It doesn't necessarily make them wrong, just not right for me. This is my unique spiritual journey, and if someone else went on this same identical journey, they probably wouldn't have discovered the same insights I have. For this reason, I've been challenged to make allowances for other church's belief systems, even if I don't agree, although I still won't hesitate to call out overt abuse where I see it.
How Jesus Saves the World from Us has given me a great deal of food for thought, and as I mentioned earlier, I'm sure it's a book that I'll re-read multiple times. It's also a book that's infinitely quotable. In some ways, I wish I could quote the entire text, because it's just that good. In any case, I hope that Christians, or anyone who reads this book, will approach it with an open mind and heart, ready to take a hard look at their own spiritual life and how they might make changes that lead them and others back to God's simple message of salvation. Yet I hope that they will also recognize that His message is still oddly complex for the myriad ways in which God imparts it to us that is as diverse as each individual. Also, if you're a Christian who's been frustrated by the direction in which the church has generally been moving of late, or if you've fallen away from the church in disillusionment, I think you might find some comfort in this book. I wholeheartedly believe that Jesus really is still out there saving the world despite the fact that many people try to get in the way.
Note: This book contains at least one strong bad word, which readers might not expect from a Christian book and which may offend some.
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