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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  • 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.

    Brannon Hancock
    Brannon Hancock associate professor of practical theology and worship, Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University
  • 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
  • A provocative exercise in literary invention that casts key biblical figures in an intriguing new light, from Cain to Judas to—yes—even Satan.

    Josh Larsen
    Josh Larsen co-host of Filmspotting, editor and critic at Think Christian, author of Movies Are Prayers
  • 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.

    Randal Rauser
    Randal Rauser author of What's So Confusing About 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.

    Matt Mikalatos
    Matt Mikalatos author of Sky Lantern
  • 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.

    Clay Morgan
    Clay Morgan author of Undead: Revived, Resuscitated, Reborn
  • 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
  • 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!

    Tara Beth Leach
    Tara Beth Leach Senior Pastor, Pasadena First Church of the Nazarene and author of Emboldened
  • 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.

    Allison Fallon
    Allison Fallon author of Packing Light
  • 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

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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?

  • 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.

  • In All Things Charity Podcast Interview

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

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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