Befriend: Create Belonging In An Age Of Judgment, Isolation, And Fear, by Scott Sauls
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BuzzPlant/Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review.]
There are some joys about getting books like this one in unedited edition for advance readers. One can see, for example, the elements of the book that wait until the end, such as the detailed footnotes for the citations and sources included in this book. Sometimes, though, one is missing content that one would really want, and sadly, in reading this book, the chapter I wanted to read the most was not included–befriending the opposite sex . Fortunately, the other chapters of this book, which is a bit under 200 pages, are good enough that even with this crucial chapter missing, it was still an immensely worthwhile book. Most people who know me, even people that may not like me that much, would probably concede even if grudgingly that I am a particularly friendly person. This book was written for friendly people, people who want to be friends and think kindly of basically everyone, and to do so from a godly and Christian perspective. It is the sort of book I enjoyed reading, something that encouraged my own personal tendencies and habits with regards to befriending others, and was a pointed reminder of the difficulty of being a gracious person as well as a godly one.
The contents of this book–the twenty chapters that are included in the version I read at least–make it clear that believers are to befriend or at least try to befriend nearly everyone: the person in the mirror, the “other,” prodigals and Pharisees, the wrecked and the restless, the shamed and ashamed, the ones you cannot control, true friends and significant others, sexual minorities, dysfunctional family members, children, those grieving and dying, the poor and empty-handed, the other race, the rich and powerful, bullies and perpetrators, women and humans not born yet, strangers and refugees, those who vote against us, people with disabilities, God. There are at least some of these lists where people would place me, others that are filled with people I encounter in the course of my ordinary life, and the author manages to include a great deal of personal stories about himself and his family, often told with a sense of self-effacing candor that fits with the other writing by the author I am familiar with , and with the same basic point, that we should be loving and kind to everyone, not merely those like us or those who happen to like us. No, we must be friendly even to those who hate us and fear us and mistrust us, as difficult as that is.
It is hard to overstate how practical this book is in light of our contemporary polarization and hatred and intolerance. The author wades into political debates about race, about abortion, about homosexuality, and does so without sacrificing biblical truths about either our obligation to be loving and gracious or about the conduct that is being dealt with. The author reminds us, and the reminder is a necessary one, that our opinions about issues and our worldview concerning behavior or sin does not give us the greenlight to hate people on those grounds. The author even, uncomfortably, addresses our need to befriend those who have committed terrible crimes and sins, to forgive them of their wrongs, even as we recognize that there are consequences that last even after forgiveness is given, and to pray for reconciliation even after wrongs like rape and murder. This is not an easy book, and what it asks of its readers is immensely difficult. There are many books that encourage a cheap sort of ragamuffin grace, but this book points out over and over again just how costly the grace is that we are to show to ourselves and to other people. Those of us who seek to be gracious in our own lives are often reminded painfully of this fact, and those who have yet to try should be encouraged but also suitably warned by the contents of this most excellent book.
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