When our daughter was starting to walk, we told her she was not allowed out of bed without permission. We had heard too many horror stories of what happened to babies who wondered out of their cribs and rooms during the night. Our daughter was great about playing quietly or looking at books until we came and got her in the morning or calling for us if she had a more immediate need.
When we potty trained her, we wanted to get rid of the rule. I didn’t want her to wait for me to respond if she had to potty. I wanted her to run for the potty so she wouldn’t have an accident. You wouldn’t believe how difficult it was to convince a child who had been told a behavior was a “no” for so long that the behavior was now a “yes”. “No” was easy and safe. She knew what that looked like. “Yes” was scary. How could she know she wasn’t doing “yes” wrong?
I have met many people over the years who have rejected God because they believe he is the God of “no”. As in “God doesn’t want me to have fun” or “God doesn’t want me to enjoy life”. To them God is the big joy-robber in the sky. I have also known many Christians who were so fearful of getting the “yes” of serving God wrong, they focused only on obeying the rules and making sure they weren’t doing something that was disobeying them. What neither group understands is that God is actually the God of “Yes”. The beauty of being a Christian is all of the “yeses” from God. The Christian life is not about a list of do’s and don’ts, but about actively living out our faith. Those who have experienced this kind of faith find they can be creative, use the talents God gave them in amazingly fulfilling ways, obey God’s rules and still experience great joy.
In his book The Gospel of Yes, Mike Glenn challenges his readers to re-think the way we view God. While acknowledging there are definitely rules and commands, Glenn proposes God is more interested in the things we can and should be doing than He is in what we shouldn’t be doing. He even goes so far as to suggest God’s rules and commandments aren’t as much a “no” from God as they are a “yes” showing us the way to a more fulfilling life. Personally, I love the idea, as I have often thought that myself. I have found when I obey God’s commands, my life goes so much smoother and I am more content and joyful than when I break them. For me it isn’t just the guilt of sinning, but the mess my sin makes of my life and in the lives of those I have sinned against.
Depending on your personal experiences with Christianity, you may really struggle with Glenn’s ideas on God being the God of “yes”. You may even be raising your children to fearfully avoid all of the “no’s” in the Bible. While I do believe a certain fearful respect of God and the consequences for disobeying him are healthy for us and our children, I believe Christians often forget the positive aspects of living a Christian life. Many are also missing the higher calling of doing what God calls us to do in service and sharing our faith. (Ironically, another reason we lose young people is because they perceive that the Church/Christians aren’t trying to right the wrongs in the world with service and sacrifice.)
On the surface this book seems like an easy read, especially for those of us raised in a less restrictive Christian home. Yet every chapter gave me something to think about and absorb. He even has questions at the end of the book to help you focus your reflection. I am amazed how Glenn was able to cover such diverse topics as God’s history of saying yes in the Bible, God’s ability to work with questionable characters, the crucifixion and resurrection, the meaning of true repentance, using our gifts and finding the path God laid for us, forgiving others, having great relationships, living simply and more without seeming scattered. Somehow he manages to cover each subject in enough depth to give you something to think about, study and focus on, without the book being overwhelming.
If you are looking for a book saturated in heavy scripture analysis and dissection, this isn’t it. Honestly I don’t think the author meant it to be. Every book has it’s audience and this book was written for those who believe Christianity was meant to weigh them down and rob them of their joy. The author mentions more than once the commands many perceive as the “no’s” of God. One could argue there are a lot of them, yet looking at it from the author’s perspective, the rules free us to live a fuller, richer life. He also points out what many young people have noticed, often Christians do the bare minimum they can to serve others. Instead of the life of service and teaching Christ modeled, many are living the “I’m a good person and here’s my check” life. Glenn points out saying “yes” to God requires us to also live our life in service to Him and those around us as well as sharing our faith with those we encounter.
If your house no longer has two year olds, but is still a house where “no” is the most common word in use, this book may just help you reflect on your parenting style (even though he doesn’t address that aspect of parenting specifically). If you are somewhat reluctant about Christianity, because you just don’t see the positive side other than going to heaven, then this book is a must.
For parents, I strongly suggest as you read this book, you also consider how you are presenting God to your children. Are you constantly focused on pointing out their sins? Do you use God as a sort of boogeyman to scare your children into obedience? Or have you shown your children the beauty and joy of living a Christian life? Have you taught them how to serve others and share their faith? Are you helping them discover the gifts God gave them and the path He has laid for them? Showing your children the God of “yes” may help them through those turbulent years when temptations can convince teens and young adults God has too many “no’s” and takes all of the fun out of being young. Perhaps when those temptations come, your children will already have experienced the joys of Christian life lived in God’s “yeses” and resist temptation.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review. I am painfully honest though and would share any concerns I have. Personally, I will be reflecting on the concepts in this book for some time to come! This one will have a place on my shelves so I can share it with anyone I encounter who thinks God is only about “no.”