I love to read. I also love to go back and look over my notes and highlights on specific books that really hit me in a given year. I try to read a variety of books throughout a year, but mainly read a large amount of books that can grow me as a disciple of Jesus.
Hands down the best book that I read last year was one of the last books I read all year. I highlighted lines and sections non-stop while I read Philip Yancey’s newest book, Vanishing Grace. Yancey begins by considering how Christians are perceived today by many. He sites a survey that prompted this book saying that in 2009 only 16% of young, non-Christians had a favorable impression of Christianity, and just 3% had a good impression of evangelicals. When he asked the words used to describe Christians were “judgmental, hypocrites, anti-gay, anti-women, right-wing, hate-filled” just to name a few. In these surveys and in Yancey’s conversations with people he was disturbed that he never heard people describe Christians as grace-filled, graceful, loving, etc. Yancey described the scene of American Christianity and the church as a place where grace has vanished in many ways. Christians have become known for what they are against than what they are for. They are not known for their love, grace and mercy towards others. Yancey wrote this book out of this discovery and fear for the direction of the church, and for Christians to be aware of how they are viewed in society and how they potentially act.
Here are a few quotes that stuck out and impacted me, and that I hope show you why this book is important and a must read for all Christians and churches.
- “The issue is not whether I agree with someone but rather how I treat someone with whom I profoundly disagree. We Christians are called to use the ‘weapons of grace,’ which means treating even our opponents with love and respect” (Kindle Loc. 332).
- “I yearn for the church to compete just as hard in conveying what Paul calls the ‘incomparable riches’ of God’s grace. Often, it seems, we’re perceived more as guilt dispensers than as grace dispensers” (Loc. 341).
- Perhaps the most powerful thing Christians can do to communicate to a skeptical world is to live fulfilled lives, exhibiting proof that Jesus’ way truly leads to a life most abundant and most thirst-satisfying. The fruits of the Spirit – love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – flow out of a healthy soul and in the process may attract those who have found such qualities elusive and unattainable” (Loc. 1160).
- If we do not live in a way that draws others to the faith rather than repels them, none of our words will matter (Loc. 1201).
- Jesus’ early followers understood that every person – slave or free, Jew or Gentile, man or woman – has an absolute value, a radical notion that did no exist before Christianity. Plato valued a person according to behavior. Aristotle saw some men as ‘slaves by nature.’ According to the Christians, though, God created all of us as eternal beings, made in God’s own image, which holds true for the brilliant or the mentally challenged, for the virtuous citizen or the criminal” (Loc 3206).
I would highly recommend you pick up a copy of Philip Yancey’s Vanishing Grace. One of my goals for 2015 is to find ways to put this book into practice and be a grace-dispenser in my community.