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Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths,” wrote Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. “These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

That quote inspired the title of Scott Saul’s new book “Beautiful People Don’t Just Happen: How God Redeems Regret, Hurt, and Fear in the Making of Better Humans.”

While I’m on sabbatical, David French talked to Scott, an author and pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville, Tennessee, about:

  • handling the exhaustion of the current moment
  • whether winsomeness “works” 
  • the challenges facing pastors in the face of relentless criticism
  • how friendship is an antidote for partisanship
  • whether partisanship should be a marker of orthodoxy
  • Scott’s prescient warnings about the dangers of culture war obsessions.

Scott also posits that if you feel more at home with people who share your political ideology than with people who share your religion, then politics is your religion. 

DAVID FRENCH: Scott, I quote you all the time. We were at a gathering recently, one of these “save the world gatherings,” where a whole bunch of Christians get together and say, “what the heck is going on?” and “what can we do to make things better?”

And at the very end of one of the sessions, I remember we were talking.  We had a five point plan, we had a seven point plan, we had a nine point plan. We had all these plans.

And you said, “Have we just tried the fruits of the Spirit?”

SCOTT SAULS: Hey, I’m just a dumb pastor over here. That’s all I got.

DAVID FRENCH: Yeah, that reminds me of an attorney saying, “ I’m just a country lawyer, but…”

Anyway, let’s talk through the fruits of the spirit as a means and a method of engagement in the world. What did you mean when you asked, “Have we tried the fruits of the spirit?” 

SCOTT SAULS:  Well, I’m going to gently correct one word: fruit. 

DAVID FRENCH: Fruit?

SCOTT SAULS: Yes, it’s singular.  

DAVID FRENCH: Okay.  But I still say, “Krogers.”

SCOTT SAULS: Hey, got you.

I said it for 20 years until somebody pointed it out. But it is kind of confusing because there are several of these one thing right?  But I think it’s critical, the singular word “fruit” of the spirit to this conversation, because you cannot discard certain fruit. You can’t discard the gentle priestly fruit in order to be fiery, prophetic truth teller in the same way that you can’t discard the fruit that makes you a truth teller so that you can be super gentle and kind.

It’s both/and.

Jesus came full of grace and truth, and he calls his people to show up in the same way collectively. Now, some are going to major in gentleness and minor in truth telling, and others are going to major in truth telling and minor in gentleness.

But together, the body of Christ is meant to be full of grace and truth, as Christ was, because we’re representing him.

We’re ambassadors on his behalf. The whole “Winsome Wars” thing, I don’t want to sound too cynical, but for me, that’s one of the easy things to roll my eyes at and dismiss.  Never in a million years would Jesus ever imagine his people not being kind to their enemies, not loving their enemies, not building bridges with their enemies, not praying for their enemies.

I think the irony of this whole “Winsome Wars “thing and like “Down With Winsomeness, the Days of the Tim Keller Approach are Over.”  The telling, revealing irony of it, David, for me, is that we are nowhere close to the conditions that Christians lived in in ancient Egypt, ancient Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, first century Rome that gave us the New Testament.

Nowhere do you see God’s people standing up as culture warriors because the “Winsome Wars” aren’t winning the culture.

Except for Elijah, when he defeats the 450 prophets of Baal and then he slaughters them all.

But one thing that is not talked about very much is that in a chapter or two later, God took Elijah out. And Elijah isn’t mentioned anymore after that.

And part of me is like, “this guy went overboard. You’re not supposed to kill your enemies. You’re supposed to win them over.”

People probably will want to debate me on that with Elijah, but Jesus said “by their fruits, you’ll know them.”

And my question for the people who dislike the winsome approach, is “how’s it working out for you?”

When’s the last time you persuaded somebody by yelling at them? How many of us know even one person with the story:

“I used to be a rebel against all that is good. And then a Christian or a group of Christians started yelling at me, shouting me down, pointing their finger at me and telling me like it is. And then the light bulbs went on and I fell to my face and started worshiping Jesus and became a follower of Christ from that point forward.”

I’ve been a Christian for I don’t know how many years. I’ve been a pastor for almost 30. I’ve never met a single person with that story, David.

And so I just want to say… how’s it working out for you?

[This excerpt was lightly edited for clarity.]

HOST: David French

PRODUCER: Caleb Parker

The Good Faith podcast comes out every Saturday on The Dispatch. Listen and subscribe here or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Image Credit: Lewis MinorFollow “Ciencias Naturales V Metamorphosis” on Flickr

 

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