No one would purposefully want to go into a dense thicket of tangled, thorny, prickly shrubs and vines. But after reading Shayne Wheeler’s The Briarpatch Gospel, that’s exactly where I want to go. He uses the briarpatch as a metaphor for those places where many people don’t want to venture by choice. Our potlucks, quiet times, and half-hour sermons are easier than the difficult, scary briapatch.
The briarpatch includes the poor, the marginalized, and the disenfranchised. It includes the self-centered, the hypocritical, and the greedy. It includes the lesbian who has been rejected by her church, or the teenager struggling with depression, or the child with leukemia. Going into the briarpatch is drawing near to someone whose soul is struggling to breathe in a place where the air is thin. This is where Jesus went. It’s not easy to dwell there, to love there, but the healing grace of Jesus is there if we have the courage to follow.
We are called to conform to the righteousness of Christ, and we are going to fail miserably at times. We are to be willing to walk down the road of life together and enter together into the mess and the mystery of following Jesus. We must have the courage to love, even when we don’t understand or agree. Shayne Wheeler shows us how to follow Jesus fearlessly into the thorny places and live out our calling to love.
But this isn’t just an idealistic book of how things should be. Shayne Wheeler wrestles with the tough issues through life examples of the problems we encounter in the briarpatch, the dangers, what to do when we are there, and how transformation occurs.
I devoured this book! I couldn’t stop reading, couldn’t get enough, because he grappled with so many questions I’ve had about loving others who seems so different and sharing the good news of Jesus with them. He doesn’t offer simplistic answers. This book is profound and life-changing. My eyes are opened to the briarpatches around me, and I no longer take the long way around.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Publishing in exchange for my honest review.