Two words have a way of melting hearts and building a bridge between people–no matter how marked or seemingly insoluble their differences:
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:
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
My September newsletter will be hitting inboxes on the third Thursday as usual. I’d love to have you subscribe in time to get your first issue next week. You can either hop on the handy (and only slightly annoying) pop up form here on the blog–or simply click here.
And as always, you can also subscribe to Living Our Days blog to get regular content delivered to your inbox twice a week. Lord willing, I’ll be sharing a book review most Wednesdays and then a Sunday Scripture to guide your heart toward the Word. Just enter your e-mail address in the field at the top of this page.