Published by Zondervan on September 8, 2020
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Apologetics
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For years, Christians have argued, debated, and fought one another while "speaking the truth in love," yet we are no closer to the grace-filled life Jesus modeled. Biblical scholar and popular podcast host of The Bible for Normal People, Jared Byas casts a new vision for the Christian life that's built not on certainty, but on the risk of love.
A biblically-based Christian life is not grounded in having all the answers but in a living relationship. This ultimately shifts our focus from collecting the "right" answers to loving others deeply and authentically. With stories and insights drawn from his years as a pastor, professor, and podcast host, Jared Byas calls us back to the heart of the Bible: that truth is only true when it's lived out in love.
In a refreshing voice that's both witty and profoundly revelatory, Jared unpacks the concept of truth, its meaning, and why we so often fight over it. He makes a compelling case for how what we believe is less important than how we believe it and that, more than anything else, telling the truth in love is about following Jesus.
For anyone who has ever felt forced to choose between truth and love, acceptance and rightness, this book offers a path forward beyond truth wars and legalistic religion to a love that matters more.
I grew up in a tradition that valued the intellectual aspect of Christianity. I was (and am) very truth-oriented in my approach to Christianity, something that has led to a keen interest in apologetics. But over the years, my view towards truth has softened. Not in any sense that it matters less, but in the sense of recognizing a greater ethic. It’s this greater ethic that Jared Byas preaches in Love Matters More.
No, this isn’t some universalist all-roads-lead-to-God wishy-washy type of theology. But it’s also not the in-your-face smarminess of “facts don’t care about your feelings.” It’s truth. And love. And the truth is that we often fail to love like Jesus love when we seek to be right at all costs. Love Matters More is a book about discovering that what draws people to Jesus is love, not all the right answers.
In a pastoral and conversational tone, Byas lays out the truth (in love). First, truth is objective and we are subjective. Using the famous blind men and the elephant analogy, Byas says that only God truly knows the elephant. The rest of us are interpreting truth based on our traditions, backgrounds, and biases. It’s not that truth can’t be known, but often we present our beliefs as The Truth™ without taking time to learn why other people come to different conclusions.
This is a particularly useful chapter for a church that is increasingly attacking fellow Christians for the political candidate they like or for the minor areas of doctrine they hold. We can debate over these things, of course, but it must be done in love. Byas suggests that love and fellowship trumps being in perfect agreement on all issues.
Byas’s most difficult chapter is “Love Changes the Truth.” In this chapter, Byas contends that what we’ve perceived as truth can change over time due to the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus doesn’t say that the Bible would guide us into all truth; he says that the Spirit would. Byas applies this to several of the hot-button issues in evangelical Christianity: female clergy and same-sex sexual behavior.
He takes the Old Testament views on slavery and suggests that we see a change in interpretation between the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament accepts slavery as an institution. The New Testament allows for us, but also says that within the church, such class distinctions should be broken down. Move to modern Christianity and nobody is arguing for the continuation of slavery.
Byas uses this argument of progressive revelation, where the general arc of a doctrine is toward redemption, and applies it female clergy and same-sex sexual behavior. He writes: “Just as our ethics rightly shifted away from opposing women’s equality and endorsing slavery—shifting the lens through which we read the Bible—a similar shift may be happening with regard to how people think about LGBTQ relationships…The Spirit of God is on the move again.”
This is an argument I’d not considered before, as most arguments for same-sex inclusion in the church is often based on misunderstanding the biblical texts not suggesting that we’ve progressed beyond them. This is both an intriguing premise but also one that needs the most evidence behind it. Byas doesn’t quite convince me, but it’s a line of consideration that those in charismatic, Pentecostal, or other denominations more attuned to the Spirit may find have weight.
Love Matters More is one of the most insightful, challenging, and thought-provoking books I’ve read in a long time. It’s a beautiful testament to the primacy of love and how placing it at the center of our theology will positively affect what we think, how we feel, and what we do.