Our journey in Christian ethics starts with God in whose image we are created. Creation begins with birth and continues as we mature. Our character matures, shaped by the example of Christ under the mentorship of the Holy Spirit through the family and the church. Christian leaders reach full maturity once they able to mentor others—we are blessed to be a blessing. Living in Christ focuses on explaining, not justifying, Christian ethics. At a time and in a place where people scoff at developing a theological understanding of their faith and refuse to teach Christian morality, ethics is almost a lost art. At the heart of the ethical dilemma is a tension between theological principles that can only be resolved the guidance of the Holy Spirit. For example, how do you practice forgiveness for sinners who refuse to confess their sin and force you to bear its consequences? In this context, ethics is less a philosophical discipline that a recognition of our own limitations as Christians and the need for divine intervention. Ethical thought and action always involve interpretation under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is thus ironic that a book on Christian living should have an outward focus on God rather than an inward focus on what to do and not do. This interpretative element colors how we view character formation, the community of faith, leadership, and the many special issues that arise in daily life.
The fifth and final work in Hiemstra’s Christian spirituality series (following 2019’s Simple Faith) unpretentiously explores the role of Christian ethics in a postmodern environment and examines biblical components of modern religious leadership. This uncomplicated publication illuminates the clash between many core Christian values and current American society, offering concrete methods to tackle topics such as idolatry, family dysfunction, and morally complex decisions. Readers seeking to enhance personal and professional leadership skills will find Hiemstra’s guide easily relatable, with basic and adaptable suggestions for living responsibly. Hiemstra offers specific advice on the trials of pastoring amid present-day demands, and much of the work uses his own experience in the ministry to highlight ethical dilemmas around such everyday concerns as raising children, funding churches, and making restitution for harm.
Theology is explained in straightforward terms with comprehensible interpretation of biblical principles and parables. The work consistently delivers a framework for Bible-based leadership, though at times it digresses with unrelated and disconnected material. Hiemstra’s emphasis on sharing the Christian message in modern times is candid, and the work does not shy away from confronting sensitive topics. The author utilizes personal experiences to clarify and support themes in the work, although readers may find these rudimentary and extraneous. Building from a foundation of pure devotion, Hiemstra exhorts followers to self-transformation through emulating the behaviors and beliefs of Christ and witnessing to others.
Highlighting the Christian leader’s role in addressing societal problems while promoting moral accountability, Hiemstra provides readers with impetus to model maturity by mentoring others. The combination of straightforward biblical analysis of Christian leadership practices and tangible applications for living in faith makes the work relevant to postmodern Christianity and gently challenging. Hiemstra offers a balance of mild admonishment and aspiration for ethical living, and readers will appreciate the forthright presentation of Bible-based principles for effective leadership.
Takeaway: Readers seeking to improve Christian leadership skills and heighten ethical living through well-known biblical principles will find this work straightforward and useful.
Great for fans of John MacArthur, Henri J.M. Nouwen.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: B
Appeared in the print edition of Publisher's Weekly on November 23, 2020 (page 154).