How to Engage Faithfully in Our Fractured World

Two words have a way of melting hearts and building a bridge between people–no matter how marked or seemingly insoluble their differences:

“You Matter”

When we manage to see a beating heart behind words that inflame our anger or challenge our patience, we begin to engage faithfully as Jesus did when he wore out his sandals on Palestinian dust. Remarkably, Jesus was able to have lunch with white collar thieves and leave the building with a new disciple. He could steer a conversation with the immoral, the unlovely, or the social outcast onto holy ground and bring them along with him.

Could it be that the gentleness of Jesus is the secret to living and engaging faithfully in this fractured world? In A Gentle Answer, Scott Sauls offers his scriptural insights and his ministry experience as he invites readers to explore a crucial question for this era:

“What must happen in and around us so that we become the kind of people who offer a gentle answer?”

When we are attacked on Twitter, maligned in our mom-group, or even criticized by family members, we are stepping onto ground Jesus walked–but he walked it gently and without sin. His gentleness set him apart from from the Roman Empire, the Jewish religious elite, and the Greek intelligentsia of his day. His words brought peace, pardon, unity, truth, hope, light, and joy to the world.

Made Great by Jesus’s Gentleness

Just as God’s kindness draws our hearts to repentance, it is his gentleness that makes us great. I’m challenged to explore the gentleness of Jesus as a way of being in the world. Scott Sauls invites his readers to consider behaviors and mindsets that characterize gentle people who give gentle answers:

  1. Gentle people put “indicatives before imperatives.”
    (Okay, you knew I couldn’t resist a point with a grammatical overtone…)
    Jesus focused on who people could become by his power–the indicatives.
    Our tendency is to focus on the imperatives–the list of rules for right behavior. This mindset is best exhibited in Jesus’s handling of the woman caught in adultery.
    “Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more” (indicative before imperative) is radically different from “Go and sin no more so that you will not be condemned.” (imperative before indicative) It is scandalous to accept people before their behavior changes, but Jesus practiced a scandalous grace, evidenced in gentleness.
  2. Gentle people recognize that all is gift–even hardship and persecution.
    Gentleness should not be confused with “being nice.” Martin Lloyd Jones described well the sacrifices of a following life:
    “I gave up nothing; I received everything.”
  3. Gentle people know when to get angry and how to do it without sinning.
    When Mother Teresa stood before the gathered dignitaries at the National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, she “channeled her own God-given anger by boldly and courageously speaking against the termination of image-bearing children in the womb.” (1236) The tiny woman spoke gigantic words to challenge an entire culture, and she wasn’t worried about how they landed. Righteous anger fights for shalom, God’s all-consuming, all-redeeming peace.
  4. Gentle people care for their neighbors.
    “Jesus came to turn his enemies into friends, his friends into family, and his family into joyful participants in his mission.” (509) His gentleness sent him into hostile territory with a peace treaty called the gospel. As his followers, we can, by grace, welcome criticism (even if it is unjust), because we are more concerned about our character than our reputation. Then, based on self-awareness of our own twisted motives, we can forgive, when our caring for others results in our being treated badly or misunderstood.

    Armed with a gentle answer, following Jesus’s example, we can stand out as different in a world thirsty for his refreshing presence.

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.

Grace and Peace to You,

This is the third book by Scott Sauls I’ve reviewed here at Living Our Days. Click here for my thoughts on Irresistible Faith. And if you’re curious about Jesus Outside the Lines, you can read more here.

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 A Gentle Answer: Our ‘Secret Weapon’ in an Age of Us Against Them, Irresistible Faith: Becoming the Kind of Christian the World Can’t Resist, or Jesus Outside the Lines: A Way Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides simply click on the title, 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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36 thoughts on “How to Engage Faithfully in Our Fractured World”

  1. Wonderful thoughts by Sauls. So much meat there. Thank you for sharing.
    P.s. I am having difficulty with signing up for your newsletters. I receive your blog posts, but never knew you had a newsletter as well.

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  2. Michelle, I loved this whole post, but especially these points. “Jesus was able to have lunch with white collar thieves and leave the building with a new disciple” and “Neither do I condemn thee; go and sin no more” (indicative before imperative) is radically different from “Go and sin no more so that you will not be condemned.” “Gentle people know when to get angry and how to do it without sinning.” Wonderful, well thought out post!

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    1. Oh, that’s so encouraging Debbie. I loved the book, and really wanted to share the heart of it with readers. It’s one of those books I hope I get to re-read! Thanks for sharing the review.

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    2. Oh, Michele…I smiled from ear to ear while reading this because of an encounter I had yesterday. Hopefully, you will take some time to read all about it in my latest post. Love the explanation of indicatives and imperatives and the best order to use them, however, it was this line that deeply resonates with me: “Righteous anger fights for shalom, God’s all-consuming, all-redeeming peace.” Yes, it does!

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  3. It is “his gentleness that makes us great” – this whole post is challenging me to “explore his gentleness as a way of living in the world”. A well-written, thought-provoking post.

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  4. Michele, I’ve not read anything by Scott Sauls before, but I have read good things about his writing. Including this. Gentleness is a favorite fruit of the Spirit of mine (am I allowed to have a favorite? Hmmm…) and looking at people through the lens of “you matter” certainly helps us see them as Jesus does.

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  5. I love what C. S. Lewis said, I think in Weight of Glory, that we never know what people could become. May we see them as God-made in His image and redeemed and transforming by His grace. We excuse ourselves with the thought that none of us is all we should be, but we need to extend that same understanding to others.

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  6. These clothes of gentleness (Colossians 3:12) are too big for me–there’s much room for growth! Thank you for the challenge, Michele–through the writings of Scott Sauls. I’d especially like to speak with the bold gentleness of Mother Teresa!

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  7. What a challenge this book must pose! I appreciate the points on gentle people giving gentle answers – great clarity in the examples. Thanks for sharing!

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  8. love this! what a picture of Jesus, too!! thank you for the very practical break down. glad I found your through crystalstorms.me link up.

    mariel
    marieldavenport.com

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  9. Wonderfully inspiring post, Michelle! Visiting your blog after aeons and it feels so lovely to read your deeply philosophical posts again. Your words speak to me!

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  10. Hi Michele, It’s lovely to meet you from #MondayMusings and I love the reminder to be gentle. I’ll confess that I’m more focused on mindfulness and buddhism and I think of it as compassion but I believe that the core teaching is the same. To be accepted and to matter for who we are is a gift in itself but one that we can all give 🙂

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  11. ********************************************************
    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
    ********************************************************

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  12. There are a few people family and friends who have a negative influence on my life so I’m gently withdrawing and changing the way I deal with them and their issues, I value their point of view but often disagree with it. I’m learning to be gentle with my response. Thanks for linking with #pocolo and hope to see you back tomorrow

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  13. Gentle is not a word you hear much any more and that’s a shame. I have almost always chose to walk away from arguments and negative people.
    What a great post, as always 🙂

    Your link at ‘My Corner of the World’ is greatly appreciated!! I’m glad to see you this week!

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  14. I think the humanity of Jesus, His gentleness and love of fellow man is inspirational and something to strive for especially in dark times like these. Thanks for linking up with #dreamteamlinky

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