Chapters 3 and 4
Ok! Time to pick up the pace. This is an easy book to read afterall ... so let's take it two chapters at a time, and two posts a week. (Were you wondering if I'd ever get there?) Paul makes many acute observations that keep even the most mature Christian challenged and stimulated as they read his book. For example his reflection on page 32 that so many people in our society treat relationships as just another commodity and on how we treat each other as a matter of personal choice in the pursuit of pleasure. Here's another crunch point as he reminds us that Jesus did not set out to make God attractive, to appeal to our preferences, rather he presented reality to us. These insights alone are worth reading the book for.
However the great strength of chapter three lies in Paul's brilliant scenic stroll through the Old Testament. This is a great model for how to make that vast part of the Bible intelligible to a new Christian. By beginning with the topics of creation and purpose, and describing the core of sin as humanity wanting absolute control over our destiny, Paul makes profound theology quite simple. This chapter ends with the tension of the 'problem' God has with how he will display his justice and his mercy to us. What is it about the word 'problem' that makes me uneasy? It just doesn't sit comfortably with me to speak about God having a problem! Putting that aside though, the answer to this dilemma is of course found in the Gospel, and that's the focus of the next chapter.
First Paul guides us through Israel's salvation story, including the technical details of priesthood and sacrifice. Having this roadmap for the outline of the Bible's message would be invaluable for a new Christian, making their first reading of the Old Testament so much less baffling. The way this book just engagingly talks through the story of Israel means you're attending a theology lecture without even knowing it! Paul manages to explain the ins and outs of priests and old hymns and trinity, but he never treats his reader as simple or ignorant, and this would mean a lot to many adult converts who are used to processing complex ideas. I would be happy to give this book to anyone.
But in the end, the greatest thing about these two chapters is how Paul's writing just shines the spotlight so clearly on the gospel. Every time I hear the gospel properly explained I marvel at God's perfect plan. This stuff is balm for the soul. And for the Christian reading Right Side Up reading books like this is a helpful way to get a bit better at explaining it to others.