When you think of Jesus, who do you think of? What about the words Church or Christianity? If you’re anything like me, you’ve met Christians who are ugly, hateful people. You’ve been burned by people who claim to follow Jesus. But I bet you’ve also met some incredibly kind, thoughtful and generous people who call themselves Christians, too. Me too. It’s a big mess, one I’m still learning to make sense of.
I was born into the Church. I’ve been a part of the Church my whole life. My best and worst moments have happened in the Church. The best and worst people I’ve ever met have been Church people.
The Church will probably always be an institution. That doesn’t have to be bad. But when the people start serving the institution, rather than the other way around, that’s when things get toxic. Jesus never meant for the Church to keep people from God. He meant for the Church to help us discover the God who is already working all around us. In every culture. In every place.
What does the 21st century Church look like? What does it look like to follow Jesus today? Jesus’ resurrection was the beginning of a whole new story, one that each of our stories can be part of. The question is: are we paying attention? Are we telling the right story?
Researchers have demonstrated a correlation between reading fiction and a capacity for empathy. This should not surprise us, for both require attentiveness, imagination, and the ability to enter into another's story. Synthesizing solid yet accessible biblical scholarship, fictionalized retellings of biblical narratives, and pastoral wisdom, JR. Forasteros invites us to consider the perspectives of familiar and not-so-familiar villains of the Bible. Empathy for the Devil performs a kind of 'listening between the lines' for the desires, motivations, and rationalizations of even the most despicable characters and their (mis)deeds. The point is not to elevate them, but to humble us. Their stories, carefully considered, expose similar tendencies and twistedness lurking within our own hearts. Every reader will benefit not only from JR.'s insights into these cautionary tales, but from the exercise of entering empathetically into their stories and allowing the Holy Spirit to shine the flashlight into the darkest corners of our souls.
Reading Empathy for the Devil is like realizing your whole life you've been trying to see the stars through the wrong end of the telescope. Carefully researched and creatively written, Empathy for the Devil gives us a new kind of Copernican Revolution. It reframes the way we think about the other and the Other. I feel like I can see the stars with fresh eyes—or maybe for the first time.
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.
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.
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.
Since first hearing JR speak, he has always been a favorite of mine. He brings the gospels to life in a way that is rare in today's Christian culture but so needed and beautiful.
A provocative exercise in literary invention that casts key biblical figures in an intriguing new light, from Cain to Judas to—yes—even Satan.
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!
Every time I hear JR. speak, he delivers. Few people combine intellect, practicality, and humor like JR. He embodies what he proclaims and that makes him an effective voice in our culture.
With creative genius, JR. invites the reader to open the floodgates to our imaginations and see things like never before. This is a thought-provoking and mind-bending book. JR. is a brilliant and articulate storyteller, and you won't be able to put this book down. So get cozy, grab a cup of coffee, and immerse yourself in this book!
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.
Empathy for the Devil is unlike anything you've ever read. Part fictional anthology, part nonfiction, the pages of this book bring ancient antagonists to life in ways that will both shock and inform you. It's Wicked for the spiritual formation set. Every one of us knows what it's like to linger before a mirror, seeing a deep secret or two we withhold from the world, wondering if others really understand our hearts, anxious about whether or not we want them to. When JR. told me he was going to write a book about how relatable the villains of Scripture are, I thought if anyone could pull it off, he could. And he has. The people in these pages are infamous for the worst things they ever thought and did. Plenty of us can probably relate to the fear of being remembered for our faults, what we got wrong. But beyond the darkness there is always a light to move toward. This book shows us the cost of selfish ambition and the choice we have to be protagonists in a story much larger than ourselves.
Written with the biblical knowledge of a scholar, the incisive wisdom of a prophet, and an imagination worthy of the Inklings, Empathy for the Devil expertly shines a spotlight on the 'bad guys' of the Bible so as to illumine the bad guys within our own hearts. Be ready for a page-turner that takes an inventory of your soul.
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.
You'd think that someone with such a substantive beard would be hard to understand. Far from it. JR.'s theological knowledge, pop culture awareness, and earnest nature make him an engaging speaker you want to listen to.
JR.'s ability to draw out Truth with intelligence and relativity to the culture has impacted my life. No topic is too challenging for JR. to begin a conversation, asking questions which lead to further exploration of any subject, leading to a new perspective.
We underestimate the power of looking to our greatest enemies. We forget that they are like us more than they are unlike us and that if we can learn to see ourselves in their eyes, to bridge the gap between 'us' and 'them,' tremendous healing and peace can be found. Never has there been a time in history where this message is more needed, and JR. tackles the subject with creativity, wisdom, and grace. You don't want to miss this book.
The deepest truth usually dawns on us through the power of a story. Nowhere do we find more explosiveness than in the stories of Scripture. We love these stories because they're not whitewashed or edited. We see ourselves in our human rawness. JR. Forasteros has done two things quite well in this book: narrated the story of the dark characters of Scripture and introduced them into our lives in believable terms. If we can own them rather than castigate them, we may find the saving grace of God that delivers us from evil.
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.
JR. is a gifted speaker. He challenges me to see things in fresh ways, while at the same time relating his messages to everyday life.
JR. is the most worthy intersector of culture and theology. He is prolific and provocative without losing respect nor being disrespectful. Read him, you'll love him too.
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?
JR. teaches in such a way that the listener is compelled to reflect upon how the gospel is being lived out through his or her own life. JR.'s ability to design a message to meet people where they are is amazing. I've never been disappointed.
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?
JR. is a master in the art of teaching. His carefully prepared words have the power of a cello solo in the park mixed with a rock concert on a summer night. His genuine care for his audience inspires custom creations that both teach and provoke action.
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.
JR. is a great storyteller, weaving pop-culture, our stories and God's story into a life-changing message. God is using JR. in powerful ways to connect, encourage, and challenge his listeners.
JR. Forasteros is not to be trusted. I came onto his website just to read about my favorite shows and movies, and instead I'm taught how to critically evaluate them and discover where Christ is present in them? Bah. I'm going back to TMZ.
JR. passionately believes God is involved in everyday life. From movies to music, his writings are run through with the assumption that if God has spoken to and through His creation, then it is our job to look for his presence. No one does it better than JR.
Something you should know up front: I love the Batman. Everyone loves Batman, obviously. He’s the best superhero. But I’m dedicating a whole section of my page to the Batman. So that should tell you that I’m a little bit obsessed. If you want to know why, here are a few of the posts I’ve written concerning Gotham’s caped crusader!