Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle is my favorite book of the year! It ripped me up. I cried every time I opened it–in the restaurant, in the airport, on the airplane–everywhere!
Greg is a Catholic priest who has given his life to serve the gang members of my own city of Los Angeles. His way of loving every single person, and seeing the beauty and nobility in them even when they’re at their worst, so reminds me of God’s love for us.
One quote from the book I’ve been meditating on and trying to live out in all my relationships is: “Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” (p.67)
Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism by Carl Medearis is another book I loved this year, a book that sets religion aside to focus on living, loving and speaking like Jesus. Carl is a pastor who prepares his Sunday sermon notes while sipping coffee in a gay bar because he believes Jesus would more likely be found there than in a church office.
Some of Carl’s best friends are politicians, homosexuals, or Muslims. Sounds to me a bit like Jesus’ friends, the “tax collectors, prostitutes and Samaritans”–or we could say, people who abuse their power, people who are risky to be seen with, and people from a “rival” religion. But when Carl talks about Jesus to these people, they listen, maybe because Carl IS like Jesus.
Culture of Honor: Sustaining a Supernatural Environment by Danny Silk is a third book that really challenged my relationships with others (see my earlier blog on “Intimacy”). Danny’s premise is that successful communication is not about persuasion, but understanding; and someone who fails doesn’t need my punishment or control to fix them, they need my forgiveness, continued trust and freedom. A love that is not afraid of sin brings out the best in people.
All 3 of these books are saying essentially the same thing. We’ve built walls to protect ourselves or others from getting hurt: walls of geographical or emotional distance, walls of stereotypes and judgments, walls of punishment and control, and many others. The way of Jesus, and the true way forward for us, is to move TOWARD the other–the offender, the one who is different, the one we’re afraid of–and find in us a love bigger than our fears.
Any individual or group that we find it hard to love, Jesus offers us grace to see the awesomeness in them that He sees, and courage to take a step towards them in love.
Anyone else read these books and would like to comment on them?? Write me!