(This is the next segment in a book I agreed to read and review, Beauty In The Wreckage: Finding Peace In The Age Of Outrage, by Brandon Andress, scheduled to be released October 9. If you haven’t seen my review of Chapter 1, you can find it HERE and you can find Chapter 2 HERE)
Chapter 3: You Have Been Invited
This chapter is no different from Brandon’s other chapters in that it begins with the cold, stark reality of both our world, and the organized church. And he does so, not with an accusing, finger wagging “Shame on you, church”, but a necessary confrontation for each of us to examine our attitudes; especially when it comes to those living in that wreckage, and moe especially in helping us recognize the wreckage in our own life.
One cannot read this chapter in the Presence of the Holy Spirit and come away thinking,
“How dare Brandon accuse us of failure!” Instead, I found myself hanging my head down in shame that this powerful mirror is indeed telling us the truth about church when it becomes a religion. I am being overwhelmed by this thought: We, the church, have replaced “God’s Shalom” with “Shame On You”; and this is not good, not good at all. And I weep for my own participation in this and my failure as a leader to call the church away from this spirit of judgment.
But as Brandon as consistently done up to this point, he doesn’t leave us to our shame. He lays out a way to transform us into instruments of God’s Shalom. He brings back into focus for the reader the real message of Jesus when This Creator walked among His Creation as the creature He participated in creating. Creator becomes Creature. In this chapter Brandon drives home a radical truth and a refreshing voice in our current culture. Shalom begins by being born again. Not in the way our religious world tells us, but in the way Jesus tells us. In a world of “John 3:16 Sign Holding Folks At Athletic Games”, here is the prophetic voice calling us away from the hype, and into the true hope that comes only from being “born above”.
Brandon also brings back into focus the word and concept of “sin”. He lays out a seemingly little known fact that in the Greek, the word for sin is us as a noun, not a verb close to eighty-nine percent of the time. However, in the churchian culture of today it is used almost exclusively as a verb–to describe something someone did rather than the condition we are all in–thus leading to the misconception of various “degrees” of sin where one is not as bad as the other. As with the writer Paul’s letter to the Romans, he points out that we cannot fully understand grace and redemption without first understanding the true nature of sin. In a rarely seen clarity, Brandon lays out this foundational truth–that sin does more than alienate us from God–it divides us from each other. Thus, this culture of hate and suspicion.
But Brandon does not leave us in the despair of our sin. The message he shares is the one that our culture today needs to hear. It’s the message of hope, Hope that produces Shalom. Here is a word that gets back to the heart of the message that Jesus proclaimed that day in His home synagogue at Nazareth. He breaks through this misconceptions and misinformation that I would say comes from the UNholy one, our real enemy, Satan.
I do not know because I’ve never asked Brandon if he has been nurtured in the Wesleyan understand of Grace, but as I read him as he write about Grace, it is as if I am reading a modern day John Wesley. Understanding how the Grace of God is given to us, I mean, really understanding that Grace, will, as Brandon asserts, will begin changing how we see others. Thus, we become instruments of and for God’s Shalom! Help it to be so in me, Lord, help it to be so!