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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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!
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
A provocative exercise in literary invention that casts key biblical figures in an intriguing new light, from Cain to Judas to—yes—even Satan.
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.
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.
JR. ForasterosJR. 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.
The Art of Empathy for the Devil
JR. asked some of his favorite artists to illustrate the villains in the book.
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