The title of Ed Welch's book When People Are Big and God Is Small of course means just the opposite—God is never small, and people are never bigger than he is. But from our on-the-ground perspective we often see things differently. The criticism, scorn, and judgement of our fellow humans seems so much closer and immediate than anything God can mete out.
Call it what you will (people-pleasing, codependency, pride), the eminently human habit of living life in order to receive the adoration or avoid the hatred of other people is quite simply a sin. As Bob Dylan so eloquently put it, "you're gonna have to serve somebody," and far too often the "somebody" we choose to serve is our spouse, our neighbor, our parents, our employer, our friend, etc.
Which is really just another way of saying we choose to serve ourselves. While we can justify our behavior as selfless and others-focused, it's really an attempt to promote ourselves beyond our station so that we don't have to come to terms with who we really are and what our standing is before an infinitely good and just God. So we diminish him in our thoughts and promote ourselves.
This is largely motivated by fear. Welch shows that peer pressure and the fear of man are all rooted in fearing what man can do to us rather than fearing the very God who made us. This is completely backwards, and Welch devotes an entire chapter to guiding us toward fear of the Lord, as well as unpacking exactly what that fear looks like in all its forms, from terror stemming from our own sinfulness to adoring worship.
Most authors write the same book many times, each time exploring new angles and trying out new approaches. This is to some extent true of Ed Welch, who frequently tackles issues of shame, forgiveness, fear, worry, doubt, and man-pleasing. This book draws on all these interests, showing that they are all really just different perspectives on the same root sin—lack of faith and trust in God.
What's different about this one is that it's a bit more hard-hitting. Welch frequently lends a much-needed voice to questions of shame and depression by focusing on the pain and suffering of the victim rather than on their need to adopt different behavior. In When People Are Big and God Is Small, he chips away at our prideful facades and encourages us more directly toward new behavior rooted in new attitudes.
He does all this with his characteristic insight, biblical and theological depth, and impatience with modern humanism and secular psychology. In some ways this is a book on theological anthropology (the nature of man), but he never uses terms like this. Instead, he demonstrates how we ought to relate to others based on how we ought to relate to God and, more importantly, how God relates to us.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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