Do we have anything in common with the villains of the Bible?

The sins of wrath, idolatry, and abuse of power are closer to us than we think. How do we guard against them? We learn not only by following moral exemplars—we also need to look at the warnings of lives gone wrong.

In this fictionalized narrative, JR. Forasteros reintroduces us to some of the most villainous characters of Scripture. He shows us what we can learn from their negative examples, with figures such as Cain, Jezebel, King Herod, and even Satan serving as cautionary tales of sin and temptation. Forasteros vividly tells their stories to help us understand their motivations, and his astute biblical and cultural exposition points out what we often miss about their lives.

We soon discover that we might have more in common with these characters than we would like to admit. Take a fresh look at the scoundrels of Scripture, and find sound pastoral guidance here to walk the path of righteousness.

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  • JR. has a history of slaying giants. As a fellow 'weird pastor' I've always loved how JR. tackles the subjects all of us want to hear about but typically don't have the nerve. He mixes sharp scholastic skill with wit. He communicates not as someone who emulates popular culture but as one who truly lives and creates culture. In Empathy for the Devil, we get fantastic exegesis that cuts each of us right to the core. We realize evil is something truly different than what Western Christianity has created over the last few decades. I'm glad JR. wrote this book. It is one we all need to read because it teaches us about the humanity we all have. But even more than our humanity, it teaches us the power of deep, beautiful, reckless divine grace.

    Chad Brooks
    Chad Brooks Lead Pastor, Foundry Church and Productive Pastor Podcast
  • A tendency of triumphalist Christianity and American exceptionalism, and really just human pride, is that it tends more and more toward ignoring its own weaknesses and sin. Empathy for the Devil helps curb this tendency by exploring the shapes and contours, the colors and smells, of our faults. These expanded and gentler retellings of biblical villains' stories create much-needed space for our own brokenness and for God's grace to transform, not just triumph over, the devil in all of us.

    Tim Basselin
    Tim Basselin associate professor of media, arts, and worship, Dallas Theological Seminary
  • Empathy for the Devil is book that gives a fresh take on the villains of the Bible. I still remember reading the chapters on Judas and Satan for the first time. The 'frog' in my throat got bigger the more that I read it. Not only does this book give a fresh perspective, it also invites the reader to walk a mile in each villain's shoes. After walking that mile, you might ask yourself: Is there a little bit of villain in me too?

    Damac
    Damac recording artist
  • This is a beautifully written, compelling, and important book that will make you see the villains of the Bible and yourself in a whole new light. Highly recommended.

    Matt Mikalatos
    Matt Mikalatos author of Sky Lantern
  • Empathy for the Devil is as provocative a read as it is informative to the very way Christians respond to both the sinfulness within our own human hearts and the world all around. This is a must-read for those with any interest in loving the downtrodden, mistaken, failures, and misfits often all too quickly marginalized and remembered only by their shortcomings.

    Guy Delcambre
    Guy Delcambre author of Earth and Sky
  • The most compelling question any great story seeks to answer is why? Why did Cain kill Abel? Why did Delilah seduce Samson? Why did Judas betray Jesus? These questions are all the same question: Why does evil exist? And, more to the point, why does it exist within us? In Empathy for the Devil, JR. Forasteros tells seven gripping stories about the most infamous characters of the Bible so we can learn why they did what they did, and, in turn, why we do what we do. Tread lightly, reader: when JR. parts the veil over Jezebel's face or grants us entrance into Herod's inner sanctum, you're unlikely to discover the evil adversaries you booed in Sunday school. Rather, you're going to find yourself subtly nodding your head. You will see these misunderstood men and women of the Bible in such arresting, startling new ways that you may even catch glimpses of yourself in their eyes. The question you have to ask yourself then is why?

    Blake Atwood
    Blake Atwood author of The Gospel According to Breaking Bad
  • It's easy to pass over the villains of the Bible, dismissing them as foils of the story, convinced that they're not like us. But JR. Forasteros says, 'Not so fast!' Even though we rightly admire the heroes of the Bible, JR. holds up the mirror of Scripture and invites us to ask, Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the vilest of them all? It's not who you think. Empathy for the Devil is a creative, insightful, provocative look at the villains of the Bible, not just as cautionary tales but also as exemplars of the human condition—our common lot. Here is wisdom: by identifying with these 'bad boys and girls' (Oh, my villainous heart!), JR. helps us see how we can become incarnational models of God's redemption in Christ.

    Rodney Reeves
    Rodney Reeves dean, Redford Professor Biblical Studies, Southwest Baptist University
  • Identifying society's villains may be the amusement of our day. We rally outrage (usually via social media) and direct it toward our enemies, distancing ourselves from their errors and evils. In Empathy for the Devil, JR. Forasteros beckons us to reconsider our judgments. With beautiful prose and solid biblical exposition, Forasteros kneads empathy into readers' hearts as we see our common need of rescue from evil—a rescue God graciously provides in Christ Jesus to villains like you and me.

    Erin Straza
    Erin Straza author of Comfort Detox and managing editor at Christ and Pop Culture
  • At first glance, one might be thrown off by the title. But I'd say, stay with it! What Forasteros has laid out here is a popular culture ortho-theology. The era we live in is nothing less than out of the ordinary. So, we need even more out of the ordinary theology. This is exactly what Forasteros has done in this magnificent text. He has helped us to grasp transcendence from the margins; a theology for those that don't fit. Yes. Finally. He's given us a manifesto for our current socio-cultural setting. Bravo!

    Daniel White Hodge
    Daniel White Hodge Associate Professor of Intercultural Communications, North Park University. Author of Homeland Insecurity: A Hip-Hop Missiology for the Post-Civil Rights Context & Hip Hop's Hostile Gospel: A Post-Soul Theological Exploration
  • Sometimes we get closer to truth by taking the opposite perspective from the one we typically take. Empathy for the Devil gets us closer to truth by exploring the dark side, the devil's side. Like a series of narrative proverbs, we can learn something about what is right by looking closely at what is wrong.

    Thomas Jay Oord
    Thomas Jay Oord author of The Uncontrolling Love of God

Available Everywhere!

JR. Forasteros

JR. is an author, pastor and podcaster in Dallas, TX. If he's not exploring the city, he's probably smoking a brisket in his backyard. His wife, Amanda, skates as Mother Terrorista with Assassination City Roller Derby. They prefer either to be travelling or welcoming guests around their table.

Newsletter

JR. sends a weekly newsletter every Friday. It’s packed with book, movie and other pop culture recommendations, a devotional thought, a roundup of everything he’s created online that week and updates on current and future projects.

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Podcasts

JR. has several podcasts about a range of topics from theology to horror films. Find the StoryMen, In All Things Charity, Don’t Split Up! and more right here.

See the Podcasts

Speaking

JR. is a creative, dynamic speaker. To hear some talks or to bring him to your next event, check out his speaking page.

Contact Him

The Art of Empathy for the Devil

JR. asked some of his favorite artists to illustrate the villains in the book.

Reviews & Media

What are people saying about Empathy for the Devil?

  • One More Thing Blog Review

    The final chapter, on Satan, is undoubtedly the best – which is saying something, since I was told as much about halfway through the book and was so enjoying myself I refused to believe it. Forasteros presents a difficult, tension-fraught subject with a calm and rational – even generous –
    approach. It is indeed hard to empathize with the devil and not something any of us particularly wants to do. Yet Forasteros earns the benefit of the doubt with the preceding six chapters and narratively weaves a beautiful expression of grace and love into the midst of great tragedy in a way that both informs and engages.

  • Home One Radio Podcast Interview

    What else are we going to talk about on a Star Wars podcast besides Kylo, Vader and the Emperor? Josh and Blaine had some kind thoughts on the surprising format of the book, and we had a lot of fun nerding out over what we want to see from Kylo and the saga.

  • In All Things Charity Podcast Interview

    Since we’re a feminist podcast, we did a deep dive into Delilah’s character.

  • Book Review in My Bathrobe YouTube Review

    The primary thing I liked about this book was the fiction… JR. masterfully crafts the stories around the villains in the Bible. He gives us a perspective on them we may not have considered before. That gives us a glimpse into our own motivations… because we see ourselves in the villains.

  • Voices in My Head

    You have a talent for making connections through stories that feel dead to us… There were parts that made me pause because I had to stop and pray!

  • This Nazarene Life Podcast Interview

    This Nazarene Life shares stories of young Nazarene clergy. Though I don’t really count as ‘young’ anymore, it was an honor to get to share about my ministry and the book on the show. Host Brit Bolerjack is a fantastic interviewer, and we did a deep dive on Jezebel.

  • StoryMen Podcast Interview

    I was in the hotseat on my own podcast. We talk about where the book came from and I do a reading from the chapter on Jezebel.

Resources & Downloads

Preaching Guide

Everything you need to preach through the book

Download here

Media Kit

Download slides and graphics for an event, worship gathering or social media campaign based on the book

Download here

Discussion Guide

Work through the book with some friends with this free discussion guide

Download here
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