Fifteen hundred years ago, a emperor of Rome constructed a tomb for his sister which is now known as Galla Placidia. It’s a small building designed in the shape of a cross with a vaulted ceiling covered with mosaics of stars in a dark night sky. The focal point of the ceiling is a depiction of Jesus surrounded by sheep in paradise.
Located in Italy, visitors will be disappointed when the enter the tomb. What little windows exist are quite small and the tiny light that does enter the room is usually blocked by throngs of tourists. In this setting, there’s not much to see. If you’re impatient and leave early, you can miss something quite wonderful.
With no warning, spotlights near the ceiling are turned on if someone deposits a coin into the metal box on the wall. The lights are illuminate the mosaics for a few brief moments before they go out. There’s really no time for your eyes to take it all in before you find yourself in darkness again. When the lights go on again, you can grab another glimpse of something you didn’t see before.
It’s with this analogy of the Christian faith that Skye Jethani, author of The Divine Commodity, opens with in his latest release With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God.
The author likens the experience of entering Galla Placidia to how many Christians enter the faith…with great expectations but once inside, many are disappointed. Many leave without experiencing a life WITH God.
Jethani states that Christians tend to relate to God in one of four ways:
- Life FROM God: Consumerism or the “prosperity gospel”. God is a divine vending machine.
- Life OVER God: God created the world and humankind but now He has no bearing on one’s daily existence.
- Life FOR God: Wanting your life to be of significance and to control the outcome by achieving great things for God’s kingdom.
- Life UNDER God: Trying to control God by obedience.
The majority of With goes into great detail explaining what is wrong about relating to God in these avenues. I agree with his points, but I do not agree with how Jethani gets there. Some of the non-complimentary verbiage he uses, I know I’ve heard from well-known pastors and in a well-known church I used to attend. Some of these sections smacked of church bashing which left a bad taste in my mouth and made me a little less likely to listen to Jethani’s point.
With that observation aside, Jethani has written a good book. The last 20% of his book is really helpful in pointing the reader in the direction of a life WITH God and providing a list of resources and disciplines to help the reader get started on his journey. He has a lot of great points, it just takes him a little too long to get there.
I received With from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Sneeze review program in exchange for a book review. I was not required to write a positive review.