When my last book, Creation to Completion, came out, a friend asked me how I’d found time to do all that writing in the midst of my busy schedule (not that I’m any busier than everybody else in our too-busy world). I said that writing was a relief and necessity for me; it helped me maintain my sanity by putting things into order amidst the chaos that–like busyness–characterizes our times. Writing isn’t just about conveying a message or a story. There’s something compelling about arranging words, ordering ideas, apart from the content itself.
Years ago, when I was taking a practicum for my master’s degree in counseling, the prof asked us students for some good reasons to go into the field. We tried to say things about helping people in ways that didn’t sound too do-gooder, but the prof wasn’t impressed. He was skeptical about the idea of helping others (completely lacking any kind of biblical or other religious perspective as far as I could tell), and worried that we’d fall into bugaboo of that era, codependency, if we were too wrapped up in the problems of others. He thought the best reason to practice counseling was because you found it interesting. That sounded rather cynical then, but I can see his point–something about love of the practice apart from the results. And often that motive produces better results. Likewise with writing. Without love for the craft–the interplay of words, the sense of discovery as you roll out the sentences–you might become grimly serious or so intent on stating your case that no one can stand to read you. Yeshua himself often conveyed his message (which of course is always far truer and more important than any of ours) in story, riddle, and paradox, sometimes reveling in the sheer joy of words.
But, of course, however much we may write out of the sheer necessity or love of writing, we do choose our content, as in the title of my new book, Divine Reversal: The Transforming Ethics of Jesus. Writing on a topic we love is part of what makes writing such an addiction. So, what about this book? First, I’m satisfying another need, one I probably share with many of you, to dig into the text of Scripture. Specifically I wanted to dig into the gospels, the Yeshua story, more deeply. I also wanted to learn from Yeshua on the matters that often seem closest to his heart, the weightier matters like justice and mercy and faithfulness.
I’m also responding to some specific disorders. First, what seems to me a tendency to focus so much on the vicarious work of Yeshua in his death and resurrection (which of course are central to everything) that we forget about the matters that Yeshua himself tells us not to neglect. I focus on Yeshua’s ethical teachings, then, not in contrast with his work of atonement, but as an essential part of it. Second, I’m trying to reorder some of the talk about the Jewish Jesus. In fact, my original working title was Following the Jewish Jesus. Plenty of books and articles argue for the Jewish background of Yeshua and his teachings. Some seem more intent on defending Judaism, especially in its early forms, than on learning from early Judaism to better understand the unique message of Yeshua. My desire is to build on the Jewishness of Jesus to gain new insights into his message, which ultimately leads to new insights into his person and his redemptive work.