Sit. Walk. Stand., by Watchman Nee
I have to admit that this is a book I have heard about for some time, and I wasn’t sure if the hype of the book had outweighed the book’s virtues, but in this particular case that was not the case at all. There are some major advantages to reading and appreciating a book like this one. For one, the author does not come from the sort of publishing tradition that says a book has to be so long for it to gain attention–this is a short volume, even with a study guide appended to it, and likely would have been thought far too short in the contemporary Western publishing tradition to publish as it was, and likely would have been filled out with all kinds of puffery. Instead, this book is undiluted. Moreover, the author comes from a different tradition than that of many of the book’s (Western) readers, and the point of view of a serious-minded Chinese mainstream Christian is certainly one that is well worth paying attention to even if, especially if, the perspective is not one that the reader happens to share. All of that is aside from the considerable virtue of the book itself, with its clear-minded and solidly exegetical look at the book of Ephesians.
The author takes, in this short but pointed commentary, a very clear view of the book of Ephesians and what it has to say about the Christian life. Namely, the author posits that the Christian has three distinct approaches in one’s life, namely to sit before God, to walk before others, and to stand against Satan. The author points out that these three words appear over and over again in these contexts and manages to make a compelling commentary out of the contrast between those three basic approaches in behavior. We sit before God, because we are respecting Him and learning from Him. We walk before the world, our example providing either a subtle rebuke to the world around us or an example for the world to follow. Finally, we stand against Satan on the defensive, remembering that Christ was won our victory and that our job is a defensive operation against a foe that has already been defeated but who has not recognized that defeat yet. After the main chapters of the book, there is a study guide that asks the reader questions on the subjects that Nee has discussed.
I must admit that I do not know much about Nee and his life, except that he learned Christianity from Western missionaries, was a popular preacher within China who started a great many small congregations, and was imprisoned early in Communist period and ended up dying after about 20 years in prison. Yet this is not a book that is dependent on the biography of its author. It certainly does manage to present the author’s own perspective and background rather ably, but the author is focused here on the scriptures, and that focus definitely shines through. It is easy to see, after having read the book, what it is about the book that draws such consistent praise, namely the fact that the author does not in any way sugarcoat the Christian experience or what it depends on–namely God and Christ–to do successfully. The aspect of the book that comes from a different perspective allows the book to act with considerable power in that it does not speak according to our contemporary cant and cliche, and thus serves as a somewhat bracing look at the way that a Christian should approach His life with regards to life, the outside world, and the enemy.