Book Review: With by Skye Jethani

To the right is a link title “books.”  It contains two lists, a list of books I am currently reading and another list of books that I think everyone should read.  With by Skye Jethani has just moved from the first list to the second.  Every so often you come across a work that organizes and articulates an issue in such a clear way that it changes the way you see things and provides a new language to address what you observe.  Jethani looks at what we believe about our interaction with God, not what we say we believe, but what our actions show that we actually believe and categorizes those beliefs into five approaches to life, four false views and the appropriate one.

Life over God is living as if we don’t need God.  Life under God treats God like a divine judge searching our hearts for where we fall short.  Life from God is the expectation that God fulfills our every desire like an omnipotent genie.  Life for God says that God’s mission is everything, and our value comes in how useful we are in that mission.

Each view has an extreme.  The atheist is the ultimate expression of the life over God.  An ultra-legalistic individual is the worst of life under God.  Life from God reaches its most extreme level in the prosperity gospel, and the individual who makes serving and ministry the absolute highest priority to the neglect of others represents the extreme expression of life for God.  Jethani doesn’t stop with identifying the extreme representation of these false views.  He identifies the subtle ways each view can play out in our lives.  In the end, I don’t know how any honest thinking person can walk away from this book without identifying the presence of at least a piece of each false view in his or her life.

The best example of this is his treatment of Life over God.  We could easily write this off as a life only led outside the Church, but Jethani points out that it is much more prevalent in the Church than we would like to admit.  He calls out those who reduce following Jesus to a set of divinely inspired principles.  We lead our churches according to business principles and view Scripture as a holy book of life principles.  But a principle-based approach to life is a life that doesn’t need God.  If we have his principles, what do we need him for?

This is where Jethani points out that God desires that we approach life with him.  Life WITH God (thus the book’s title) is a life of relationship.  It is a life that allows us to wrestle with the grief and pain.  It allows us to lean into God in the midst of our doubts.  It allows us to be okay with being a work in progress.  Life with God means that relationship with him is the constant current running throughout our lives.

I loved this book.  I will reread it frequently, and I highly recommend it.

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