“What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call, ‘Christianity And.’ If they must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian coloring.” Screwtape
In Part One of Jesus Outside the Lines, Scott Sauls counteracts Screwtape’s advice from the pit. To walk with Jesus outside the lines of my political leanings or my hobby-horse-of-the-week is to embrace the notion that not everyone in Heaven will look like or agree with me. (One of the reasons I listen to NPR is that every now and then I need to hear people say things that I disagree with. I’m practicing for heaven!) Sauls helps us to see that the Christian’s “uttermost foundation of stone” is Christ — not our political hot-buttons, our worship preferences, or our tax bracket. Therefore, “we should feel [most] at home with people who share our faith . . .” Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and many Christians prefer the company of unbelievers, simply because they are “tired of taking sides.” God intends for His people to need and to be needed by a body of believers. Sauls exposes the church’s faulty thinking about money with the truth that it is not wealth but discontentment that is the true evil of our day. In fact, in all our heated discussions as believers, it would seem that the fire blazes most destructively when we lose sight of the truth that the most beautiful thing in the world to Jesus is people.
In Part Two, Sauls casts his net wider to address the Yin and the Yang of dilemmas that have been argued since Jesus walked this broken ground. Sauls pulls back the curtain on his own Pharisaism, insecurities, and disappointments, yielding a powerful collection of essays on the Christian life in relation to:
- Criticism – The fact that Jesus affirmed both His followers and His non-followers opens the door for present-day Christ-followers to “affirm expressions of truth, beauty, and goodness wherever [we] find them.”
- Judgment – The holiness of God requires a realistic look at humanity’s hopeless depravity, and yet, for the Christian, Judgment Day has been absorbed by Christ. Wanting this freedom for others is the best motivation for evangelism, and Moses sums it up beautifully in Exodus 20:20: Fear God so that you will not have to be afraid of Him.
- Hypocrisy – Yeah, it’s true. Gandhi and all the others who complain about the hypocrites in church are telling it like it is. In the words of Anne Lamott, we’re all “very crazy and very damaged,” but the transformation that Christ makes in a life puts the believer on a path toward demonstrating the loveliness of Jesus. The more time we spend with Him, the more like Him we will become; and, consequently, the more faithfully we will walk His path.
- Sexuality – Succinctly, Sauls interprets the whole of Scripture to say that “God is in favor of sexual freedom.” However, our “culture of casual sex has led to outcomes that are anything but casual.” Sauls shares heart-rending conversations he has had with believers who struggle with same-sex attraction, and his conclusions are both biblical and compassionate.
- Suffering – Christ Himself wept and raged over the suffering and loss on planet Earth. The knowledge that all will be put to right by “the Resurrection and the Life” when Sam Gamgee is proved right and everything sad does come untrue, is a call for the believer to fight against suffering and injustice in this present age. Hope and realism are both appropriate responses to life on a fallen planet.
- Self-esteem – Competitive, narcissistic humans express our brokenness in our misplaced hunger for approval. The Bible offers humility as an antidote to our self-absorption along with the fact that “you’re a worse sinner than you ever dared imagine, and you’re more loved than you ever dared hope.”
A theme that runs like a fresh-water stream through Jesus Outside the Lines is the truth that Jesus managed to defy all the labels imposed by the religious elite in His day, and He continues to elude our “definitions” today. Jesus Outside the Lines is a challenge to look for Jesus outside the boundaries and an invitation to join Him there.
This book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review.