Thinking Out Loud

August 19, 2020

When the World Baits Us for Knee-Jerk Reactions

Filed under: books, character, Christianity, culture, current events, Jesus, reviews — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:31 am

Review — A Gentle Answer: Our Secret Weapon in an Age of Us Against Them (Nelson Books, 2020)

While 2020 will best be remembered for its top health story, the year will no doubt also be marked by the increase we saw in both online hostility and public protest. There is no middle ground and no room for nuance as things because increasingly more polarized; more black and white.

What is the appropriate response for someone who is a follower of Christ?

Anecdotally, it is not much different than that of the general population, but Jesus — and the whole compendium of scripture — teaches us that as citizens of another place entirely, we ought to formulate a different type of reaction.

When Brant Hansen wrote Unoffendable, which I reviewed here in 2017, one pastor mentioned that this was a topic he had been drawn toward covering, but felt it was no longer needed, as Brant had done an excellent job.

But three years later, the world (and especially the U.S.) finds itself in a situation where it would seem someone was monitoring all the yelling and reached forward to turn up the volume button. From mask-wearing to racism to political candidates, everyone has both an opinion, and an opinion as to why their opinion is correct.

Maybe it’s time for another book on the subject.

Scott Sauls is a name unfamiliar to me even 60 days ago. Someone had asked me about A Gentle Answer but it was a few weeks after that I discovered a previously-received review copy. Around the same time I learned that Scott Sauls had served for many years alongside Tim Keller in New York City and was better known to people in the Reformed community.

There are many similarities between Sauls’ work and Hansen’s; but also many areas where Hansen is more of a journalist and Sauls writes more as a pastor. If I were asked to recommend either one to someone who needs to hear what scripture can teach us about our character in such heated situations, my choice would depend on who the recipient might be. They are equal but different.

Scott Sauls divides his attention between the gentle spirit of Christ which all his followers have experienced (the first three chapters) and how we ought to allow that to change how we respond (the remaining five chapters).

Although the book doesn’t often address the specific issues of the day (of which I mentioned three, above) it is certainly written with social media outrage and public confrontations in view. A few times he reminds us that this is a lesson which Martin Luther King, Jr. knew well; an arena whereby (to paraphrase Paul) we would do well to imitate King as he imitated Christ.

In the title of chapter two, Scott Sauls reminds us that Jesus, “reforms the Pharisee in us;” making us a people who can do anger righteously, receive criticism graciously, and forgive thoroughly.

I’ve posted some short sections from Sauls at Christianity 201 including an excerpt from the book at this link, and also included a shorter section that grabbed me as I wrapped up reading at this link.

I encourage you to also check out scottsauls.com.


Thanks again to Mark H. at HarperCollins Christian Publications in Canada for an opportunity to read A Gentle Answer. I’m going to miss those advance review copies!

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