This is a series of posts on a book I am not recommending you read, but will provide the link so you can read the first couple of chapters for yourself, if you would like, or purchase if, in spite of my review, you are thinking there might be something in it for you.

To Trust or Not To Trust, That Is the Question

“John 2 tells us, Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature (vv. 24-25, NLT). Maybe those who seek to follow him could take that same approach.”

Brant Hansen, “Unoffendable,” p. 29

This seems to say that based upon Jesus’s understanding of human nature, Jesus did not trust anyone, and therefore you and I should not trust anyone either.

But that is not quite what the Gospel of John conveys about Jesus, or about the particular situation this text is lifted from.

What the Greek text actually says is:

24 But Jesus himself did not entrust himself to them, he thoroughly to know it all,

25 and because he had no necessity that any should bear witness concerning the person, for he knew what was in the person.

John 2:24-25

There is a context here. Just above this passage, Jesus had cleansed the temple, a startling and unsettling experience for probably everyone, although the non-Jewish God-fearers must have suddenly felt seen and championed, because Jesus was angry on their behalf. It was the only part of the temple they could worship in, and the temple authorities had changed it into a bazaar for Jewish people.

Then, the verse just preceding these two verses describe people believing in Jesus’s name because they saw the signs he was doing.

Ordinarily, we would expect to see something of a reciprocity here: they believe in Jesus, Jesus gives them more. Why? Because that is what happened in chapter 1.

But that is not what happens in chapter 2. It happens in chapter 3. It happens in chapter 4. But not here. Again, why?

Because in point of fact, Jesus knew what was going on in the inner beings of these particular people. Jesus knew their belief was shallow, and there was no room in them to receive more of Jesus. Jesus was using wise and discerning judgment. John leans into that point with Jesus’s discussion with Nicodemus in the next chapter.

Then, John shows the biting irony of what that meant in chapter 4, when a woman (not a man) from Samaria (not Judea) with mixed theology (not the “pure” theology of a scholar) not only recognizes Who Jesus really is, Jesus entrusts Himself fully to her. More than He had even entrusted to His disciples.

I so wish this book were about that—using our wise and discerning judgment to assess where the other person is, and to know how much or little we should, or even can, entrust ourselves to that person.

Instead, the book goes on to make a sweeping judgment of all human beings.

Perhaps a big part of being less offendable is seeing the human heart for what it is: Untrustworthy. Unfaithful. Prone to selfishness. Got it. Now we don’t have to be shocked.

Brant Hansen, “Unoffendable,” p. 29

This is the book’s theology on human beings.

But it is not Jesus’s theology, based upon Jesus’s actions and words.

In fact, in this very Gospel, in John’s Gospel, Jesus – God of the Universe, Very God of Very God, Creator and Sustainer of all that is – tells His closest followers, I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.”

God the Son entrusted Himself completely – everything – to human beings.

God’s assessment of human beings fully surrendered to and fully receiving God through Christ: we are trustworthy.

Paul follows through with this by describing the nature of love—the love all believers have within them by the Holy Spirit. Among other things, love always believes the best in the other person. Love makes us vulnerable to the beloved, which opens us up to the potential for hurt, and even offence. However, since love is what it is, we process that pain (hopefully together) and seek at least resolution if not restoration.

Room for Righteous Anger

Stories ensue in this chapter about people being surprised at the actions of those they thought were such nice people. The book mocks such responses. Then follows several examples of criticisms leveled against the book’s author that we are to understand are unfair and unkind. The underlying thread we are to see is how undiscerning we all are about what is going on within other people.

Chapter 6 pivots and invites the reader to “marvel at the goodness that humans often produce” (p. 37) We are exhorted not to be offended by the brokenness of the world but rather be thankful that God is intervening to restore the world. That does sound right, does it not?

But it is not right.

We are to have both. We are to be offended with God at how evil has gotten such a hold on God’s beautiful world, and we are to be offended by evil’s oily infiltration of human hearts. Also, we are to be repentant, and tearfully grateful that in spite of this offensiveness, God’s love conquers all.

The rest of this chapter describes a man in prison who is sharing the author’s podcast with many other inmates and lives are being saved unto eternity. I am not sure how this folds into the the book’s main premise, but for the author it is surely a salve to heal the hurts of the unkind and unfair criticisms he so often fields. God recognized how offended and hurt this author’s feelings were, so in all grace and loving kindness, God gave the author deep and worthy encouragement. His podcast is bearing good fruit.

Farther into the book the claim is made that “Scripture allows us no room for righteous anger.”

This allegation is confidently founded upon mistranslation of some texts, and misinterpretation of other texts.

In this case, the motives the author assigns to those who are about to stone a woman caught in adultery are not the motives the actual passage describes. The author says “They genuinely believed, no doubt, they were doing the right thing. They were carrying out God’s justice, they thought” (p. 65). In the passage, however, the motive is quite plainly stated: they wanted to put a test to Jesus so they could bring a charge against him. There is no indication at all concerning how they felt about the woman, the topic of adultery, or even the act of stoning. None of that was germane. Only sticking it to Jesus was “on the table,” so to speak.

This is called creating a “straw man,” positing a premise based upon false information, then attacking the premise as though it were real.

The true premise is that Scripture does allow us room for righteous anger.

Besides the apostle Paul’s imperative, “Please be angry,” a simple search on the internet produces dozens of sites (here is one I like) which explain (with scriptural context) when anger actually is righteous, when anger is the right response to a situation, or set of circumstances. What is required is spiritual wisdom and spiritual discernment, a topic Paul goes to great lengths to explain and describe.

Chapter 11 rightly encourages the reader to love people where they are, with genuine affection. Though no Bible passages are given, we are on solid ground. Jesus links agape (godly love) quite tightly with philia (warm affection for friends), and the Lord’s instruction had such a profound effect on Peter, he wrote of this link in both of his letters.

Put together, love involves transparency and vulnerability, which leaves us open to be hurt and offended. Because of the nature of love, we process that pain with wisdom and discernment, understanding how much the other is able to receive, and that is what we give of ourselves. Because of love, we give what will strengthen and build up, what will restore.

2 thoughts on ““Unoffendable” Who Does Jesus Trust?

  1. It is powerful to pull out all the characteristics of the woman at the well in ch. 4, and that Jesus entrusted himself fully to her. Thank you for raising those details.

Leave a Reply