During the week following the horrific death of George Floyd, I was traveling to meet my brand new grandson. Snatches of news and heartbreaking social media posts were my only connection to the “real world,” and in the quiet hours of holding a newborn, this slow processor of current events had all the time I needed to think about how far we are from John’s glorious vision of the redeemed church with all nations and tongues and peoples gathered together around the throne, eyes on Christ.
How is one to make sense of a culture so bent on polarization? One huge help in pondering that question came with the right book at the right time. In Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference, editors Tim Keller and John Inazu have convened a group of twelve authors to probe the wound caused by our differences.
” The book’s central question is how Christians can engage with those around us, while both respecting people whose beliefs differ from our own and maintaining our gospel confidence.” (34) Arriving at common ground in the year 2020 has been complicated in Western nations by our lack of agreement on the answers to three basic questions:
(1) What is our country’s purpose?
(2) What do we mean by the common good?
(3) What constitutes human flourishing?
The Journey to Common Ground
The journey toward common ground is not about proving people wrong or defending our own position. Instead, it passes by three uniquely Christian virtues on the way to understanding:
- Humility based in confident faith
Recognizing the limits of our own knowledge and goodness, we make room for other voices.
- Patience based in gospel-centered hope
We know how the story ends, so we exercise restraint while listening and practicing resistance against pessimism.
- Tolerance based in God’s unique brand of love
Endurance of the beliefs and practices of others need not imply acceptance. Love based in truth allows for a sifting of error without condemnation.
Crucially, our culture is not producing this trinity of virtues from scratch, so it is vital that the church help believers to make sense of the complexity and chaos of our present context by providing a gospel-centered lens.
The Gospel Through Story
It’s one thing to collar a Christian and hand them a list or a job description:
“Hey, did you know that you are to engage with the culture as a theologian, pastor, bridge-builder, story teller, translator, caregiver, reconciler, peacemaker?”
Each contributor to Uncommon Ground has interpreted his or her own calling or story in light of the role God has asked them to fulfill, using the gifts, abilities, and opportunities he has provided.
Christ’s death and resurrection has empowered them and will empower us to engage the world we find–not on the basis of our political party, race, or other aspect of our identity more superficial than the bedrock of our identity as a Christian. In spite of all evidence to the contrary, Christ continues to reign in the world. The twelve essays of Uncommon Ground were a bracing reminder that should transform my interaction with the culture going forward.
Making sense of our lives in light of the gospel involves an understanding of our role as a sinner, rescued by grace, and neither better nor worse than others. “We bear witness to the gospel from a position not of strength but of weakness.” (596) As we tell and retell “the story that weaves together divine transcendence and earthy human experience” (1031) we bear witness to a kingdom that has come while offering hope that the kingdom is also yet to come in all its fullness for all to see.
Joining you on the journey to common ground,
The team of writers whose essays have been featured in Uncommon Ground include Tim Keller, John Inazu, Claude Richard Alexander, Jr., Rudy Carrasco, Sara Groves, Shirley V. Hoogstra, Kristen Deede Johnson, Warren Kinghorn, Lecrae, Tom Lin, Trillia Newbell, and Tish Harrison Warren.
And… the second quotation in the final paragraph is attributed to Luci Shaw.
Many thanks to Net Galley for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which, of course, is offered freely and with honesty.
I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference, simply click on the title or the image, and you’ll be taken directly to Amazon. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
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