We bear witness to the gospel from a position not of strength but of weakness. ~Tom Lin

How to Live in a World of Difference

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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Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

47 thoughts on “How to Live in a World of Difference”

  1. Michele,
    So many are trying to hold the power…as if we can force someone into our way of thinking. Actually it’s weakness that gives us the opportunity to let Christ work through us. I love how the first precept out of the gates in their book is humility. I think a heaping helping of humble pie would go a long way toward finding common ground. Truly a good book at the right time!
    Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hadn’t thought of it in exactly that way, Bev, but I see that you are right. Much of what we struggle over and for is power. Who gets to be the “winner?”
      Humilty, patience, and tolerance are the gifts God is extending to us, and if we receive them, they can be the gifts we give to the world right now.


  2. So grateful for this irrefutable truth; “In spite of all evidence to the contrary, Christ continues to reign in the world” Amen and yes, he does. Even in the midst of our current unrest, he reigns supreme and has a plan for all of it. Change is on the horizon and it’s good.


    1. Your words encourage me, Yvonne. And I’m grateful that, even in the midst of the current climate, you are able to say with confidence that “change is on the horizon and it’s good.”


  3. Michele, this sounds like an evergreen topic but especially relevant to today. Thank you for introducing me to this book.


    1. I was first drawn to it because Tim Keller, Tish Harrison Warren, and Trillia Newbell are voices I trust and respect, but I was introduced to nine other lovely voices in the process of reading! What a gift!


  4. Michele, those three virtues that are passed by on the way to common ground? My goodness … I would love to see a world were all of us who call ourselves Christians possessed them and practiced them daily. But rather than wish for such things, I think I need to start with myself. I just put a hold on this book at the library … looking forward to reading more.


    1. It was a new way of looking at them for me, to realize that humility, patience, and tolerance lie along the pathway to understanding one another. Hope you enjoy the book and that it comes in quickly for you!


  5. Christ continues to reign in the world. …. that’s true but it makes my heart ache to realize how many people ignore this or dont acknowledge it. I feel like so much is happening in this world just because of that.
    … & they will know we are Christians by our love


  6. This sentence stood out to me: “We know how the story ends, so we exercise restraint while listening and practicing resistance against pessimism.” Oh, it is so easy to fall into pessimism as we watch the chaos and havoc unfold in our cities. We wonder what the future holds, especially for our children and grandchildren, in a nation that seems to be changing for the worse right before our eyes. But praise God! HE is sovereign and we have a gospel-centered hope! It is never too late to pray for and participate in a revival. Thank you, Michele for sharing from another thought-provoking book.


  7. I am truly interested in this book. What a time we are facing! So many changes and real truths that need to be faced. Thank you for linking up, as always, and have a great week ahead.


  8. Congratulations on your new grandbaby, Michele! How wonderful that you got to hold him.

    Any book recommending humility, patience, and tolerance has got to be a good one. I especially appreciated this line: “The journey toward common ground is not about proving people wrong or defending our own position.” I need to remember that one!


    1. I loved that quote because it reminded me of Madeleine L’Engle’s words about sharing a “light so lovely” that people would be drawn to Him. Why do we get stuck in divisiveness so easily?


  9. I also very much liked this line: The journey toward common ground is not about proving people wrong or defending our own position.
    We can only grow on our journey, both in life and faith, if we accept sometimes we are wrong and learn from others.
    Congratulations on becoming a grandmother!


  10. I’m so glad you got to spend time with your new grandbaby! We got to keep our granddaughter again this past weekend, and my stress level decreased as I just focused on her.

    This sounds like an important book for our times. Humility is always such a great step to begin understanding.


  11. How precious to visit with and hold your grandson. Babies give us hope . Love these three virtues here. If we want others to listen to us and our view, then we need to be humble and listen to them and not condemn them before getting to know them. Sounds like a wonderful book.


    1. I like how you linked humility with a listening posture. I’m focusing on the word “listen” this week, and have been reading about its value as a form of participation–something I’ve never thought of before. In classes, we usually have to TALK to be credited with participation.


  12. ********************************************************
    Thank you for sharing at #OverTheMoon. Pinned and shared. Have a lovely week. I hope to see you at next week’s party too! Please stay safe and healthy. Come party with us at Over The Moon! Catapult your content Over The Moon! @marilyn_lesniak @EclecticRedBarn

    Liked by 1 person

  13. It seems that this book has a great deal to offer in these last, confusing days! Thanks for sharing.

    ‘My Corner of the World’ is happy to see you this week! Thanks for linking.


  14. That sounds an interesting and thought provoking book, there’s so much that makes little sense right now though isn’t there? Take care, and thanks for linking to #PoCoLo. And congrats on your new grandson!


  15. This was a really interesting read, and very timely too. I think sometimes it’s easy to slip into forgetting that listening and taking the time to accept and understand other’s beliefs don’t actually mean that you need to apply or replace them with your own beliefs. How can we ever grow if we don’t allow ourselves to see outside our own boxes. Thank you for joining us for the #DreamTeamLinky


  16. Michele, this looks like a really great book with a very powerful message that would serve lots of good for Christians and non-Christians alike. We seem to have lost all respect for each other and for differences in this crazy polarized time. We need to come back together somehow in order to continue making the appropriate progress to a better future for all humanity. Thanks so much for sharing this and linking up with me.



    1. I keep reminding myself that it’s our differences that can actually bring us together! It’s so sad when we wait for uniformity in order to welcome unity into the room.


  17. Tolerance is something that seems to be truly lacking these days, the world appears to be in short supply. It makes my mind feel heavy at times. I like to think I am trying my best but I’m sure I could practice more patience, this is definitey my downfall. Thank you so much for sharing this with us Michele #globalblogging


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