Bill has turned me onto a number of good books over the past year. His latest recommendation was Wisdom Hunter by missionary Randall Arthur. Bill, who is a pastor at a church in Indiana, raved "this book changed my life." Thus I decided to read this story centered on a lesson about the perils of strict legalism in the Christian church. Right off, I would say that, unlike Bill's experience, this book certainly didn't change my life, likely because my background differs from his. However, this book was very enjoyable to spend time with for two reasons. First, I found the story engaging, poignant, and relatable. Second, it has some things to teach about what Jesus truly would have for His church.
The story begins by introducing us to Jason Faircloth and his wife Lorene. Jason pastors a large church in Atlanta and is the very essence of a Christian legalist, a modern day Pharisee. His brand of religion adheres to a very strict code of ethics and is marked by a myriad of laws. The trouble is that, in Jason's narrow world, there is no room for differing opinions.
His style of hardline legalism in the church attracts its fair share of followers. Many church-going folks only feel cleansed and "religious" in a dour and rigid environment. His large and respected church provides a feeling of power that sustains him, which is especially critical for him ever since his teenage daughter Hannah ran away from home. Although he loves his daughter, he never could understand why she left. Yet his domineering and controlling ways were slowing smothering her will to live. With their daughter gone for more than a year without contact, Jason's
wife seemingly bravely soldiers on, but she too is fading under her husband's tyranny.
Jason's world comes to a complete stop when he first gets word that Hannah has died in childbirth. Then just a few weeks later, Lorene dies from a condition linked to her depression. Jason had felt so sure he understood every aspect of God. Without the slightest doubt he believed that God watched out for and blessed his faithful servants. In a flash, everything in Jason's life just kind of unravels and he loses his faith, or at least the faith that he had developed over his lifetime. We then follow Jason over the next 20 years as he seeks to find his granddaughter and as he works to lay claim to a new brand of faith, built on scriptures and not man-made rules or cultural influences. Definitely worth reading. Now onto the next book in this series, Jordan's Crossing.
Christian growth is the lifetime process of personally discovering what is inherently valuable, and what is not.