Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Holy Week Book Review: Everyone Belongs to God

“Your being a pastor will gradually become more and more irrelevant.”

Somebody, please, give me a hug.  I don’t know if I can handle this.

And yet, words like these are exactly what I need.  Maybe even more so than the hug.  Sorry.

With this and many other such broadsides, the 19th and 20th century German pastor Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt demands that you question exactly what your role should be in bringing about the kingdom of God—and how closely you are adhering to that ideal—in the new book Everyone Belongs to God: Discovering the Hidden Christ, which should hit the shelves from Plough Publishing in a month or so (the e-book for your Kindle costs eight bucks on Amazon, the paperback costs ten).

Because this book is curated from a series of letters from Blumhardt to his missionary son-in-law (at times, it has the feel of C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters, which isn’t a bad thing), there is a familial, almost paternal, bond that comes through in the book’s words, and as such, Blumhardt comes across far less as a raging, finger-pointing, pulpit-pounding preacher and far more as the conscience in your ear that refuses to back down from exhorting you to do what is best, not merely what is good.  And because this is a collection of letters rather than, say, a collection of lectures, Blumhardt’s prose is both readable and accessible, even as the ideas he tries to convey are of the highest and loftiest of orders.

Blumhardt shines brightest in his continued reminders to his son-in-law to respect people of other faiths and cultures as people whom God is also still working through, while balancing that with his firm belief that a relationship with God is most clear through Jesus Christ.  At a time when we make it altogether too tempting to see other religions as enemies, with their violent extremists like ISIS and Boko Haram, Blumhardt offers us an example of great respect for cultures and religions outside of Western European tradition in a way that really is because of, rather than in spite of, his passion for Jesus’s message.

In this way, he says, and, indeed, the title of this collection says, everyone belongs to God, whether you or I like it or not.

But far be it for any reader to expect anything in the way of the fuzzy-wuzzy we’re-all-special-snowflakes/unicorns sentiment that might follow up a statement like “everyone belongs to God.”  In case I have not made it abundantly clear enough, Blumhardt sees that singular truth not as a feel-good placebo, but as a truly radical mindset that is meant to shake and quake everything in our comfortable, me-first bubbles that somehow pass as worldviews these days.

If you’re terrified of having that bubble pierced by such heartfelt truths about the nature of God’s kingdom, stay far, far away from this book.

Otherwise, pick it up.  You’ll be glad you did.

Disclaimer: My copy of Everyone Belongs to God came at no charge from the publisher; however, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.

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