I love this book, and have read it several times. It has had a bad rap in evangelical circles because a few well-known, and influential pastors have spoken out against it for various reasons. That bugs me a bit, because at least one of those pastors has admitted to not reading the book himself in a blog post about why the book is heretical. Interesting…seems to me that reviewing a book without having read it is a bit more dangerous than a novel about the a man who loses his daughter, and then has a supernatural encounter with the Triune God. I have had several friends “call me out” (Jokingly, of course) for reading the book as well. When I asked them if they’ve read it they replied, “no, but (fill in the blank of well-known pastor’s name here) said in a sermon I listened to online that it was heretical.” Wow. What a lovely culture we have created. People now think it’s ok critique (JUDGE) something based upon what someone else has said who has also judged that same thing based upon what they heard from someone ELSE. Scary.
That being said, I would encourage everyone to read this book for yourself. Yes, even if your pastor said you shouldn’t. It’s a wonderful book for many reasons. Whether you are just looking for a leisurely story, or to glean from the author’s deep insight of the Kingdom and God’s purpose for His Church you will gain much from this story.
Last night while reading I came across a section from one of my favorite chapters (ch. 12) of the book that I wanted to share with you…you will quickly see why I enjoy this book so much, and maybe these little snippets will coax you to read the entire story…
The main character, Mack, is having a conversation with Jesus about life, the Church, the Kingdom, etc.
Mack, just asked Jesus about heaven…
“Mack, our final destiny is not the picture of Heaven that you have stuck in your head-you know, the image of pearly gates and streets of gold. Instead it’s a new cleansing of this universe , so it will indeed look a lot like here.”
“Then what’s with the pearly gates and gold stuff?”
“That stuff, my brother, is a picture of me and the woman I’m in love with.”
Mack looked down at Him to see if He was joking, but He obviously wasn’t.
“It is a picture of my bride, the Church; individuals who together form a spiritual city with a living river flowing through the middle, and on both shores trees of growing with fruit that will heal the hurt and sorrows of the nations. And this city is always open, and each gate into it is made of a single pearl…” He opened one eye and looked at Mack.
“That would be me!” He saw Mack’s question, and explained, “Pearls, Mack. The only precious stone made by pain, suffering and-finally-death.”
“I get it. You are the way in, but-” Mack paused, searching for the right words. “You’re talking about the church as this woman you’re in love with; I’m pretty sure I haven’t met her.” He turned away slightly. “She’s not the place I go on Sundays,” Mack said more to himself, unsure if that was safe to say out loud.
“Mack, that’s because you’re only seeing the institution, a man-made system. That’s not what I came to build. What I see are people and their lives, a living breathing community of all those who love me, not buildings and programs.”
Mack was a bit taken back to hear Jesus talking about “church” this way, but then again, it didn’t really surprise him. It was a relief. “So how do I become part of that church?” he asked. “This woman you seem to be so gaga over.”
“It’s simple, Mack. It’s all about relationships and simply sharing life. What we are doing right now-just doing this-and being open and available to others around us. My church is all about people and life is all about relationships. You can’t build it. It’s my job and I’m actually pretty good at it”, Jesus said with a chuckle.
For Mack these words were like a breath of fresh air! Simple. Not a bunch of exhausting work and long lists of demands, and not the sitting in endless meetings staring at the backs of people’s heads, people he really didn’t even know. Just sharing life. “Bit, wait-“Mack had a jumble of questions starting to surface. Maybe he had misunderstood. This seemed TOO simple. Again he caught himself. Perhaps it was because humans are so utterly lost and independent that we take what is simple and make it complex? So he thought twice about messing with what he was beginning to understand. To begin asking his jumbled mess of questions at this moment felt like throwing a dirt clod into a little pool of clear water.
“Never mind,” was all he said.
“Mack, you don’t need to have it all figured out. Just be with me….”
“…I really do want to understand. I mean, I find the way you are so different from all the well-intentioned religious stuff I’m familiar with.”
“As well-intentioned as it might be, you know that religious machinery can chew up people!” Jesus said with a bite of His own. “An awful lot of what is done in my name has nothing to do with me and is often, even if unintentional , very contrary to my purposes.”
“You’re not too fond of religion and institutions?” Mack said, not sure if he was asking a question or making an observation.
“I don’t create institutions-never have, never will.”
“What about the institution of marriage?”
“Marriage is not an institution. It’s a relationship.” Jesus paused, his voice steady and patient. “Like I said, I don’t create institutions; that’s an occupation for those who want to play God. So no, I’m not too big on religion,” Jesus said a little sarcastically, “and not very fond of politics or economics either.” Jesus’ visage darkened noticeably. “And why should I be? They are the man-created trinity of terrors that ravages the earth and deceives those I care about. What mental turmoil and anxiety does any human face that is not related to one of those three? Put simply, these terrors are tools that many use to prop up their illusions of security and control. People are afraid of uncertainty, afraid of the future. These institutions, these structures and ideologies, are all a vain effort to create some sense of certainty and security where there isn’t any. It’s all false! Systems cannot provide you security, only I can.”
“Woah!” was all Mack could think. The landscape of how he, and just about everyone he knew, had sought to manage and navigate their lives was being reduced to little more than rubble…
It’s just keeps getting better and better. Not sure if you noticed it or not, but there was a section in there that I can see why it would “threaten” the power and control some have over others through the institutions they have started and are in charge of. What the book is suggesting threatens to “reduce that to rubble”. I can see why the book is “warned against” inside the walls of institutions….
I hope you will get the book and enjoy the heck out of it. It truly is a touching story, one that will bring tears to your eyes, and new life to your heart. If you have any comments regarding the book, or this post please refrain from sharing them if you have not read the book (in FULL). If you have, and feel the need to share then please do. I am sure the book is not “theologically perfect”, but what is. We have the Holy Spirit in us to discern truth and untruth. There is a lot of TRUTH in this book. There is also some things that may need to be read with a “grain of salt”, as in any book you read that is not the Bible. Enjoy!