Could the church lack credibility with our culture because Christians would rather be right than be in relationship with one another? Why is it that many Christians are tempted to replace relationship with reason, ensuring our doctrine is correct, factual, precise, often at the expense of relationship?
The life of faith is about following Jesus, forgiving, seeking, rejoicing, sharing; it is a life of relating to God, others, and creation. “Disciples are not known by how well they defend orthodox propositions, but by how well they love one another”, writes Leonard Sweet in his book What Matters Most: How We Got the Point but Missed the Person. Sweet challenges us to think about whether our convictions crowd out friendships and argues that relationship is pivotal to Christian theology.
Sweet expands his theme in eight sections that address relationships with God, His Story, others – in and outside the faith, creation, symbols, art, technology, and the spiritual world. Thought- provoking study questions at the back of the book are great for individual use. For group use, the answers are not easy for off-the-cuff responses but could really lead into some deep conversations.
For me, the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” is a cliché, void of meaning, perhaps because I have heard it regularly my entire life. Sweet opened my eyes to the significance from a completely different angle. This book is not a self-help book nor stuffed with fluff, but rather, a relational theology of what it means to be in relationship with God and how that impacts every other aspect of life.
When starting this book, I was tempted to make assumptions about what Sweet is trying to say. Yes, he is emphasizing relationships, but ultimately he doesn’t throw doctrine and truth out the window. Instead, without explicitly saying so, he shows how doctrine and relationship are intertwined and dependent on each other as shown through Jesus Christ.
Sweet puts an untraditional spin on the story of Abraham and his potential sacrifice of his son Isaac, suggesting that Abraham didn’t quite get it right in his obedience to God’s command. Whether or not you agree with his innovative interpretation that is based on where the Bible is silent, it is at least worth thinking about and worth continuing to read.
If you desire a fresh new slant on the familiar, want to engage more deeply with Scripture, or need to be motivated to live out your faith more passionately, Sweet will inspire you to live dynamically in every aspect of your life. This book is in my top list of favorites and I plan to read it repeatedly for wisdom. Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from WaterbrookMultnomah Publishing in exchange for my honest review.