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"We’re all different. But alongside much diversity, there are still many things that we all have in common. We all have good days and bad days. We all like to laugh and smile. We are all relational. We are all afraid – of something at least. We all want to be loved. It’s fair to say that we have more in common than not."
In a fun, thoughtful, and engaging way, Pete Jackson examines different aspects of what we call ‘the human condition’ – things that are common to us all – and reflects on how Jesus Christ addresses what we are like. Through twelve short chapters, he uncovers some of the things we share, and then presents us with an invitation that is open to us all.
This little book takes as its starting point twelve aspects of the human condition and injects the Gospel into them. It is designed to be given to people to whom propositional truth seems irrelevant. The topics include obvious ones like desire, anxiety, and addiction, but also less obvious ones like being a refugee (we are all deliberate refugees from God’s presence). Challenge is also given for example in the chapter on our delusion that we can live without God. Jackson uses some very arresting images to support his points. I particularly liked the one that even the most comfortable of lifestyles is merely a nice arrangement of tarpaulin and therefore temporary. Each chapter ends with questions for discussion or reflection, and so it could be used with a group as well as individuals. Aimed at non–Christians, it would also benefit Christians looking to apply the Gospel to the issues of life. At the end it encourages people to connect with a church and various useful websites (Gospel Coalition, Acts 29 among others) are given.
I read lots of books which are about evangelism, or written to be given away to non–Christians, and I have to say I think Things We All Have In Common is the best I’ve read for a while, it’s just so versatile. In particular I liked that each chapter was stand alone. The author looks at 12 things everyone has in common: desire, image, anxiety, addiction, refugees, delusion, faith, worship, dependency, fear, shame and law. Some seem obvious, others not as much, but when you start to look you see he’s right. He then brilliantly weaves the gospel into each chapter, yet it never feels shoe–horned in (as some evangelistic books do). His tone is gentle, but clear, and I would feel comfortable giving this to a non Christian friend to read though. The thing that struck me about the book is that I needed to read it. I may have been a Christian for over 25 years, but I needed reminding just how much I can relate to my non Christian friends in all these ways. I actually think this should be sold to Christians, it would surely make a huge difference to our witnessing and outreach!
Book introductions can sometimes be dull. Pete, however, draws you into his book, not least by the first words, “I hate coffee.” When I first saw the title I thought it was perhaps about evangelical ecumenism! It is not. It is a short but very useful book considering what we human beings are like – our inclinations and our attitudes toward ourselves and others. Pete often makes generalisations. For example, “We all reflect what God is like” (19): “Life without God is an anxiety–inducing life” (30): “We are not equally addicted, but we are all addicts” (42): “Every single one of us … fear” (102). These gave me pause for thought and ask, “Is that true of everyone?” To be fair, some of these generalisations were qualified as his argument proceeded. Other generalisations are most certainly applicable to everyone. We are all “refugees” (50), but how many people feel lost (51) is another matter. “Human beings were not designed to be independent” (95) is perfectly true and the author encourages us not to despise dependency (95). In chapter 6 on delusion I did take issue with Pete’s statement that Adam and Eve had to decide “for themselves whether something was right or wrong” (61). They were not faced with a moral choice, “what was good and what was evil” (61). They had the profound choice of obeying God or disobeying him. Yet Peter is correct when he says we are all deluded whether we know it or not. Throughout the book Pete is keen to constantly point the reader to Jesus, the one who was and is perfect in all his attitudes and inclinations and what he, as God, has done for us (see particularly chapter 12). Here is a book to stimulate some thinking about yourself – a bit of a ‘stocktake’ if you like – and thus is useful for every disciple of Christ who wants to be more like him. As Pete suggests each chapter would make a good discussion starter (3), and would prompt Bible study on each topic. Here also is a book for you to buy for your non–Christian friend to read and consider and respond to its message.
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