Featured Reviews, VOLUME 8

Leonard Sweet – Me and We [Review]

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A Review of

Me and We: God’s New Social Gospel
Leonard Sweet

Paperback: Abingdon, 2014
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Reviewed by Carl Holmes

In God’s economy, grace is the rule of the land, and love is the driving motivation for all that we do. Leonard Sweet does in this book what he often does so well, leave us feeling convicted, humbled, but deeply loved and cherished by God. Often, one can read a book of this genre and walk away with a deep feeling of inadequacy and conviction to change. This book provides the latter, without the former.

It is truly beneficial to take your time with this book, even though it is small. Allow the pictures and thoughts to soak in and find favor in your mental and spiritual garden. Like so many things in life, it behooves you to move slowly through the book and let it provide nourishment and sustenance for the journey.

This book is divided into three parts, all of which build upon the central metaphor of building a garden. Sweet starts the book out by looking at systemic sin, sins that are built into the economic and spiritual landscape of today. He does a masterful job of exploring those sins in the big picture, but reminding us that in the end, systemic sins are manifestations of our individual sins. Sweet makes a poignant statement, something he will continue to do throughout the book, when he says “What is wrong with humanity cannot be fixed simply by what is right with humanity” (8) He then goes on to say “goodness, wherever it comes from, glorifies God.” (9)
In part one, Sweet works through our Christian understanding of love, and the connection that love must bring. “The way the word love connects the Me and the We, the personal and the communal, is perhaps the organizing obsession of Christianity.” (22) He skillfully works through the notion of love, and how we are built to love, and how one can only truly love when one is in connection with another. We cannot profess to love our creator, and invest no time in the relationship. The same if we are to build a garden of love, we must tend to it and develop the love and relationships communally, and work with full acknowledgement of our neighbor as a deeply loved child of God, just as I am a deeply loved child of God.

Part two is perhaps the best part of the book. Sweet does a masterful job of exploring wholeness from a Hebrew worldview.  Sweet spends a great deal of time explaining how in Hebrew thought, God is the author of all things good, as well as all things we consider to be bad. Everything has its source in God, and therefore everything will be used by God for His continued glorification.
Sweet spends a lot of time on the concept of darkness, spiritually and metaphorically, and the importance of those times of our lives where we consider ourselves in the dark. At one point he sums up his understanding of darkness like this: “The wisdom of the dark is this: The self is not self-defining. You are not your own. You cannot be anything you want to be. You are created in God’s image-whether you want to be or not.”(67) This is a comforting thought for anyone who is going through a dark time, or who is coming out on the other side of a time of despair or loneliness. Darkness is formative and palliative when you are in a Me and We Gospel orientation. Darkness ultimately creates a deeper desire for the light, and leads us to a greater appreciation of the light when we find ourselves bathed in as followers of the Gospel of Jesus.
Sweet also devotes some time in this section to a discussion of love and fear. He makes the observation that fear is simply the absence of love, just as darkness is the absence of light. To love it to expel fear just like lighting a lamp will expel the darkness. Christians must have enough love for one another that our lights shine brightly for those who are working their way through the dark and into the light. The source of our light is the love of our creator, and He is the creator of the dark as well. We need light, and darkness for the Earth to flourish, just like we need it individually to truly flourish for a lifetime as well.

In section three, Sweet sets out on the premise that when we are working in a Me and We economy, we do not consume, we conceive. Going back to the metaphor of the garden, he points out that we are not to just put the seeds in the soil, we must also till the garden and provide the flow of nutrients and life sustaining sun in order to grow the plant we desire. Conceiving is our way of tilling the garden and providing a fresh flow of creativity not only provided by ourselves, but in partnership with what God has provided. In the garden it is the soil and the sun, in our spiritual lives it is the things that make us “tick” used in conjunction with the gifts of others in order to glorify God and bring wholeness to the land.
Sweet does a good job of talking fairly about the global economy and our drive to be consumers. Our economic lives are based on being good consumers and in the eyes of some making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Sweet says “to say blessed are the poor is not to say cursed are the rich. The kingdom of God is blessedness for all, the breaking of all barriers between God and God’s creatures…Jesus loved both and reached out to both at the same time.” (91) A Me and We Gospel is one that means being unified in love with all mankind. To see a man for who he is and not be defined by what he does, what color his skin, or any other dividing line you can conceive of.
This book is a must read for any growth oriented Christian, and the book has lots of wisdom from some a wide range of authors throughout, which makes the book fun and engaging, as well as challenging and persuasive.
Carl Holmes works for Compassion International and has a Master’s Degree in Intercultural Ministry from Hope International University. He lives with his wife, son and one awesome mutt in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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