These days when a Christian book hits the shelves with new ideas and distinctions, our radar of reality goes up with the significant inquiry, “Are the authors really practitioners or are they simply peddling their product?”
In the case of my friends, Kris and Joel, I happen to know they are practitioners in every sense of the word. The work within Geography of Grace comes from years of stumbling, failing, and interpreting theology among the barred and broken of our cities. I can’t pretend to write an objective review of this book because for the last several years it’s been Kris and Joel along with the entire Street Psalm Community who have helped shape my theology as it has been lowered to the level of the streets.
My favorite quote in the book?
“God has no fear of the slimy intimacy of touching his own creation.”
As I have learned in the past few years of ministry among the chronically homeless, living your faith among the most overlooked and marginalized of creation brings with it a significant tension. In reconciling the tensions of both hard places as well as hard texts Kris and Joel emphasize that this is not a journey of warm fuzzy feelings, but one that requires raw and relentless honesty about ourselves and the world. And it’s not the type of honesty veiled in “self-hatred or displaced anger, but the kind of honesty that is born from a deep desire for what is true.”
Geography of Grace brings me vitality through some of the most disgusting stories of scripture. The contemporary life and relevance of these hard scriptural texts come alive when read among people and places that have been damned by society. The authors remark, "We begin to see contemporary equivalents to ancient realities with striking regularity. People and places that have historically been excluded from the text find their voice, and so do we.”
There are two distinct principles of this book which provokes me to lean in and listen close:
1) "Grace is like water – It flows downhill and pools up in the lowest places."
2) "In testing the limits of grace, we must be willing to be wrong."
In these two foundational aspects of their work, the authors reveal their desire to live in serious congruence with the Jesus-life of Kenosis. This Greek word implies a posture of self-emptying and humility that is necessary when attemtping to see, live, and proclaim good news in hard places. This is a book to be read and re-read by all practitioners of the faith who are reckoning with an increasingly urbanizing world.