Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review of "Messy Grace"

Wow! What a book! I first heard a little about Caleb's story from the North American Christian Convention this year in Cincinnati, after my wife attended his workshop. I jumped on the opportunity to read an advance copy and review his book when I saw it on the blogging for books page because of what I had heard. Caleb Katenbach has quite a story and history to share. It's also the kind of story that (I believe) qualifies him to write a much needed, qualified addition to the ongoing conversation both outside and within the church regarding the issue of homosexuality. The fact that Caleb grew up with both mom and dad identifying as homosexual, gives him the foundation of compassion and understanding that many in the church today lack when it comes to interacting with members of LGBT community.

Within his book, Caleb shares many stories from his childhood and even some from more recent years in his life. As you read each story you can feel the tension, anxiety, humor, and sadness that Caleb himself felt during these life events, bringing you closer to wearing his shoes. Unlike many of the books I've read on the subject matter (with a few exceptions), Caleb pleads for Christians to drop the 'Us vs. Them' way of thinking because it's causing more harm and good. I felt myself feeling a great deal of sympathy for his homosexual friend whose family refused to even touch him, and instead just sat across the room and read Bible verses at him when he was lying in a hospital dying from AIDS. At the same time I felt a sense of embarrassment because that right there captures a shocking majority of people's response/reactions to the LGBT community. Caleb's big push is to understand that as Christians, we are to be Jesus' hands and feet, His ambassadors to the broken, confused, and hurting in this world, and sometimes.... sometimes we have to get messy. There are many times where Caleb reminds the reader that there is a chance you might not agree with his conclusions and convictions. However while they might have their own convictions, Caleb challenges everyone to take a step back and honestly reevaluate whether those beliefs are true. (His chapter on 'No Compromise' was one of my favorites to think through and see how he tested his former beliefs against the contextual and historical backgrounds of the whole Bible.) Overall this is a VERY easy read. Caleb's writing style makes it seem like he's sitting next to you telling you stories and having a conversation with you. I HIGHLY recommend this book to be on the reading list of every Christian (since the LGBT community isn't going anywhere and we need to elevate the conversation between the two communities from 'us-vs-them' to being love and grace-filled).

Grace certainly isn't nice and neat. It's messy! Caleb does a masterful job at contributing a worthwhile voice that is loving and compassionate, while as the same time not compromising the truth to a conversation that so many people are engaged in, yet have forgotten the whole mission of reconciliation. Just as there were times when Jesus was criticized by the 'religious' because He wanted to show grace to someone who desperately needed it, we have to master the approach of loving others without sacrificing conviction. We have to master the approach of messy grace.

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-"I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review."