26/11/2015

Jesus - Safe, Tender, Extreme (by Adrian Plass)

Of all the modern Christian writers, nobody has affected me as strongly as Adrian Plass. I first heard of him back in the late 1980s when his brilliantly funny ‘Sacred Diary’ book, based on a column he had written for a magazine, was a surprise best-seller in Christian circles. Since then I have collected all his books and re-read some of them more than once.

The most recent one I re-read is entitled, ‘Jesus - safe, tender, extreme’. I first read it back in 2006 and loved it then. I’ve just spend a couple of weeks reading a few pages each morning, and found it extremely thought-provoking.

Adrian Plass writes from a position of genuine humility and profound honesty. He writes about his beloved mother-in-law who, as he started the book, lay in his dining room in the final stages of a terminal illness. He writes about his family, whom he clearly loves deeply, and the many mistakes he makes. He never tries to make himself look good, or gloss over his failings, and I find this extremely refreshing, and so reassuring.

The book is, as the title suggests, about Jesus. But not in a typical pulpit style, or even from a position of deep theology. Instead the author looks at the man Jesus, at who he was, how he reacted with his close friends and family, and what we can expect from our lives in relationship with him today.

It’s divided into three sections, so the first part looks about being safe in Jesus. Something I’d read elsewhere just a few weeks ago (perhaps in another Plass book) particularly struck me: that of Jesus being our home, a place of safety and security, meaning that we can visit other places while knowing we can return to safety any time; moreover that we really don’t need to defend ourselves, or our beliefs, but relax into them.

I could relate even more strongly to the second section of the book, about the tenderness of Jesus: the compassion with which he dealt with everyone, both friends and questioners, and even his enemies. Jesus understands our brokenness, our wounds, joins us in our tears.

The final section was perhaps the most thought-provoking: that of Jesus as an extreme person, never afraid to do what was right or to speak out when it was time to do so. Adrian Plass mentions times when he managed to do that, and times when he didn’t, reminding us that God loves us anyway. But he also gives a hint of how exciting life can be when listening and then ‘doing what the Father is doing’, whatever that might be.

Each section has a few chapters outlining the themes, followed by various personal anecdotes illustrating what these facets of Jesus mean in the author’s own life and those around him. Then at the end of the book are a series of prayers, again divided into three sections. My only slight niggle with the book is that I’d have preferred these prayers to be with the main parts of the book; I’d forgotten they were there until I reached the end, otherwise I’d have skipped forward and read/prayed them with or after reading each of the individual sections.

But it’s a small niggle. It’s not a book to read in one sitting, or necessarily even chronologically. It’s one that I should probably dip into more often than I have done, as there’s a great deal to absorb and much to think about.

Very highly recommended.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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