Published by Thomas Nelson on June 2, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Theology
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In a defensive and divided era, how can followers of Jesus reveal a better way of living, one that loves others as God loves us? How can Christians be the kind of people who are known, as Proverbs puts it, to "turn away wrath?" Scott Sauls's compelling new book shows Christians how to become people of "a gentle answer" in a politically, relationally, and culturally fractured world by helping readers:
grow in affection for Christ, who answers our hostility with gentleness;nurture a renewed, softened heart in light of Christ's gentleness toward us;and catch a vision to forsake us-against-them mentalities, put down our swords, and "infect" a hostile world with gentleness.For those who long for a more civil way of being, A Gentle Answer reveals why answering hostility with gentleness is essential, how we can nurture our hearts to do so, and what a gentle answer looks like, both in the church and in the world.
Scott Sauls’ A Gentle Answer sets out intending to explore how we can live in a way that refuses to live into what he names as a culture where hate has become “an asset.” He does this by focusing on Jesus and claiming that Jesus “is a God of reconciliation and peace, not a God of hate or division or us-against-them. He is the God of the gentle answer.” Through the book he attempts to explain how we can live differently in this world of division and hate.
The book is ordered into two parts, the first focuses on what exactly Jesus has done for us and the second being how we respond to him. In the first part we are told how Jesus befriends the sinner in us, reforms the pharisee, and disarms the cynic. In the second he claims that with these transformation in place we grow a thicker skin, do anger well, receive criticism graciously, forgive all the way, and bless our own betrayers.
What the reader should keep in mind when coming to this book is that it is written from a clearly Evangelical perspective, I bring this up in part because Sauls has something of a habit of playing fast and loose with Scripture texts that don’t quite fit this Evangelical framework. For example, in his retelling of the story of Zacchaeus in the first chapter, Sauls helps the story along by removing Zacchaeus’ act of reconciliation and repentance and instead jumps from Jesus inviting him down from the tree to Jesus telling him (two essential verses later) that “salvation has come to this house.”
Rather than risk the possibility of an uncomfortable interpretation of Scripture that might imply Zacchaeus’ salvation might be works-related, Sauls simply skips over it. Which is unfortunate but not unique in that he engages a few other passages this way, such as when he frames Jesus’ act of raising Lazarus as an act of anger rather than sadness as the text itself seems to indicate.
This being said the book is refreshing in tone in that it does the hard work of opening dialogue on how we as Christians might be less miserable in our interactions with others, particularly in our disagreements. Sauls is honest in both the introduction and afterward that Christians have a bad reputation in regards to how we interact with others, particularly in our disagreements and so to get the reader to consider how we might work past this he closes each chapter with some discussion questions so we might begin to think about how we might become better.
The greatest asset in this work is that Sauls envisions a way of being passionate without allowing our passion or anger to drive us to sin. Instead he points us toward Jesus who can provide us with a framework for a gentle answer.