I’m a slow reader. On top of that I have the terrible habit of reading well over a dozen books at the same time on various topics and in various genres. This means that it takes me awhile to work through some books, especially ones I want to slowly digest. Such is the case with Mike Emlet’s latest, Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners: Loving Others As God Loves Us. It’s taken me most of this year to nibble away, digest, and–hopefully–apply. Here are some of the sentences that I highlighted in my copy.
The practice of love takes many shapes in Scripture….Loving others in these multifaceted ways means that we need to know and understand people well. Love doesn’t happen in abstraction but in concrete, person-specific ways. [p. 3]
Scripture gives us a kind of trellis—a basic structure—on which love can flower in person-specific ways. Though the Bible is not a technical operating manual like the detailed instructions that came with the unassembled bike you just bought, it does provide foundational categories that can help you understand others—and yourself—so that we might live wisely and fruitfully as his people (Psalm 119:105, 130; 2 Peter 1:3-4). [pp. 4-5]
Jesus did not have, as we do, a sinful nature from which internal desires could arise that were at odds with his Father’s will. But he did face all the external pressures that we face—yet without turning away from his Father in heaven….Jesus is the archetypal sufferer. What does that mean for us? It means that when we experience suffering, we can turn to Jesus—a brother and a friend who understands suffering from the inside. [p. 16]
[F]or the believer, the designation “saint” is more foundational than the designation “sufferer” or “sinner.” We experience a fundamental identity shift when we become believers. When we turn from our sin to God in repentance, received and resting on Jesus and his righteousness by faith, a seismic shift in our souls occurs. We are now people in Christ. [p. 25]
Counseling is hard work. It involves a deep dive into the particulars of suffering and sin in the context of a trusting relationship. In the midst of talking about all that is not right, it’s important to surface for air and gain fresh gospel perspective. Sometimes all the person (and the counselor!) can see are the problems at hand. [p. 43]
I find that slowing down to look at a particular passage may have more “staying power” in a counselee’s life than a passing encouragement on my part, as earnest as it may be. While I want me words of encouragement to be in line with Scripture, there’s no substitute for actually interacting with a specific passage. [p. 45]
Even when a stern rebuke is the ministry priority, the goal is rescue with the motive of love. [p. 56]
[A]s you listen to someone’s story and are trying to fully understand it, be careful not to move away from the pain too quickly. In many places, Scripture lingers in lament. Give people a safe environment to give voice to their suffering and struggle—to you and to the Lord. [p. 80]
Comfort from the Father cascades down into our lives so that comfort may cascade from our lives into the lives of others who are suffering. Comfort flows downhill. [p. 110]
We are not only victims of sin (sufferers); we are also perpetrators of wrongdoing (sinners). We are harmed and we harm others. Repeatedly. [p. 119]
If it’s been awhile since you challenged yourself and your approach to ministering to others, get yourself a copy of Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners: Loving Others As God Loves Us.
You may also want to listen to this podcast, as Mike talks to Christine’ Chappell about loving others well.