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Elusive Grace

Loving Your Enemies While Striving for God's Justice

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Westminster John Knox Press
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The United States is suffering through a season of social and political division unseen since the Civil War. Unrest over long-standing social (especially racial) injustices are confronting new, antidemocratic perspectives and practices. So much is at stake. Will this country fulfill or abandon its historic commitment to equality and civil liberties? Can a nation so divided come together again?

These questions cut to the core of the beliefs articulated by Christian communities. How can we as people of faith reconcile the call to participate in God’s ongoing struggle for justice while not losing our souls to hatred? How can we love our enemies in this time? Scott Black Johnston believes that there is a way to pursue this difficult work and that people of faith can light the way. He encourages us to recommit to our highest principles—our virtues—and to turn hearts poisoned by cynicism into instruments of love.

From his pulpit in midtown Manhattan, just one block from Trump Tower, Johnston has a unique perspective on the ideological discord tearing at the nation’s fabric. From there, he raises a moral voice that beckons us to become better neighbors, better citizens, better human beings. He calls for the church to model robust advocacy for justice, without denying the full humanity of those on the other side of the argument.

This provocative book brings the wisdom of Scripture into conversation with such diverse minds as Emily Dickinson,  Ta-Nehisi Coates, Ayn Rand, and Mister Rogers. Johnston’s prose is by turns erudite and poignant, yet always insightful. He offers not just words of hope but a prescribed course of action for individuals and communities alike, as we look to mend our souls and restore our civic life.

Perfect for book clubs! Download the Reading Group Guide.

Product Excerpts and Related Resources:
Download excerpt from Elusive Grace
Scott Black Johnston is the Senior Pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is the coauthor of Theology for Preaching: Authority, Truth and Knowledge of God in a Postmodern Ethos (Abingdon, 1997) and coeditor of Questions Preachers Ask: Essays in Honor of Thomas G. Long (WJK, 2016).
Elusive Grace
Loving Your Enemie...
by Westminster John Knox Press
Scott Black Johnston
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Questions Preacher...
Essays in Honor of...
by Westminster John Knox Press
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“Johnston has written an excellent, timely, and much-needed book. In a season of moral confusion, he speaks boldly of virtues. In a time of bitter division, he speaks tenderly of love. When neighbors lash out at each other, he speaks compellingly of grace and mutual regard. This uplifting volume gives reason for hope, like rain to a parched land. -Thomas G. Long, Bandy Professor Emeritus of Preaching, Candler School of Theology of Emory University

“Rather than tell you, the reader, what I thought about Elusive Grace, I would rather tell you how Scott Black Johnston's latest book made me feel. Honestly, it made me feel encouraged anew to keep trying to be Christian. It reminded me of God's larger horizon for not just my own life, but even more importantly, for the life of the Church and this world. I feel nourished, challenged, joyful, stretched, and re-committed. I know I will re-read it through the years, especially on those days when discouragement or fear threaten to take hold. This book is pure gift.” -Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner, Pastor, Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago

“Johnston has a pastoral, prophetic voice that is marked by courage, agility, wisdom, and winsome good humor. In this book he takes on the tough dilemma so many serious believers face, namely, how to be a sturdy advocate for social justice while at the same time being a reconciling presence with one’s adversaries. His book is a gift of practical, down-to-earth counsel deeply informed by our best theological tradition, the rich discerning experience of Johnston’s own life, and his wide reading. Readers will receive hope-filled guidance for more effective, transformative living amid our deeply divided society. Johnston is a master at showing how the truth of the gospel emerges from and turns up in our daily life.” -Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary

“There are some guides that can only be written by people who truly love justice. Well-researched facts about the good and the right can ring hollow if one senses that the writer has no soul commitment to justice. Johnston has skin in the game; his deep-seated desire for a better world splashes across each page. His work overflows with hope and promise for both justice and grace in our time. The book and its author are gifts that light the pathway forward for our troubled and hurting world.” -Cleophus J. LaRue, Francis Landey Patton Professor of Homiletics, Princeton Theological Seminary

Elusive Grace is the medicine we all need to take right now. It is incisive in identifying what is truly ailing our nation while offering a way forward of healing and hope. And like any good doctor, Johnston doesn't sugar coat the truth but speaks with grace and love. He reminds people of faith not to despair, but to seize and share that which is most powerful yet elusive: the grace of God.” -Charlene Han Powell, Senior Pastor, First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, California

“In the chaos of modern life, there are a few voices that I turn to with regularity for honesty and wisdom; Johnston is at the top of that list. With a scholar's mind, a pastor's heart, a prophet's insight, and poet's pen, Johnston speaks to the critical issues of faith and society. He is honest about how hard things are and hopeful about how things might become. By the end of this book, grace, as elusive as it is, feels closer and more reliable.” -Tom Are Jr, Senior Pastor, Village Church, Prairie Village, Kansas

“An engaging summons to the intersection of faith and contemporary social concerns! Johnston draws from a deep well of resources — history, scripture, the arts, congregational ministry and life — to reflect on this fraught season of incivility. Honestly serious and winsome, hopeful and grace-filled, he considers how folks might grow in Christian witness and service with this helpful guide for discernment and discussion.” -Agnes W. Norfleet, Senior Pastor, Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church

“It is at the same time both exhilarating and frightening to realize that we are invited by God to help shape what lies ahead. Johnston understands this, gently but firmly reminding us that we must allow ourselves to be changed if we are to be agents of change in these polarized times. We are called to stop strategizing for survival and instead risk loving the way Jesus did and taught. ‘You can’t know the truth about anyone until you love them,’ Johnston says. He walks with us through the basic yet radical Christian principles that lead to the deepening of love—a love that can embrace the enemy even while doing justice; a love that will revive the world.” -Cynthia Rigby, W. C. Brown Professor of Theology, Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

"Scott Black Johnston offers us an important invitation Elusive Grace. He brings to the conversation his experience as a pastor and as a teacher of preaching. We see this throughout the book as he brings in stories and experiences that highlight the message. It’s accessible for congregational use. That is by design. It is rooted in Scripture and theology, but also in real life. It is my hope that congregations might pick up this book and use the study guide to have important conversations that could begin the process of healing the world’s divides by bringing healing to the divides present in our congregations so that together we might become agents of justice and voices of healing. Mainline Protestant churches may never reclaim their former status as the primary molders of the moral conversations in our nation, but we can be witnesses to God’s Elusive Grace, and in doing so contribute to the work of justice in the world." – Word&Way

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