“Red Like Blood: Confrontations With Grace” by Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington
If you were asked to describe God’s grace, how would you do it? Would it be a sentimental story of unconditional love and acceptance? Would you use big words like “efficacious”, or maybe a helpful acronym? Perhaps you’d tell a parable, like Christ himself.
But to truly understand grace, one must experience it. Even then, the depth of God’s grace remains an unfathomable mystery. One thing is for certain, though: Grace is never pretty. Real grace — what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “costly grace” — is confrontational. It’s messy. It intersects with human lives at the point of total brokenness.
Joe Coffey and Bob Bevington know this, so when they decided to write a book about God’s grace, they knew that it too would have to be messy. In Red Like Blood, these two men share the story of how they have experienced the life-changing grace of God, in all its gritty detail. They recount their struggles with everything from marital infidelity to doubting God’s goodness to workaholism to pornography and masturbation, and how grace has healed them and continues to sustain them as they attempt to follow Christ in a broken world.
This type of realism and brutal honesty is typically lacking in the stories we tell of God’s grace, but it is exactly what is needed in our efforts to fulfill the Great Commission. An inaccurate, incomplete, or sugar-coated depiction of grace does no one any good. People need to know that God is good, that He is able to do what He wills, and that He is there with us in the trenches. His power is made perfect in our weaknesses. His grace is sufficient to overcome our brokenness.
Almost ten years ago, another book took the Christian publishing world by storm. Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz spoke about the intersection of faith and life in a way that resonated with millions of readers because it was real. It was messy. It was totally honest, and Miller made no effort to hide his own failures from the world.
Like me, Coffey and Bevington enjoyed reading this book in large part because of Miller’s fresh and engaging writing style, but they also shared my concerns. The gospel was missing. So while Blue Like Jazz was very “real”, it lacked the ability to truly transform readers. It could help us think differently (and in my case, better) about our faith, but it could not introduce us to the God of all Grace.
Red Like Blood is an attempt to reach readers in the same way, while directing them to the cross of Christ. I think Coffey and Bevington have succeeded. This is a wonderful book!
In Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller wrote that he “used to not like God because God didn’t resolve.” To him, God is “blue like jazz” in that people have to be shown how to love him in all his unresolved glory.
The authors of Red Like Blood contend that God’s plan of redemption does resolve. It resolves at the cross, and that is where we encounter the glory and grace of God. We cannot shy away from dealing with sin. We cannot separate God’s love from His justice and wrath. While some aspects of God’s love are certainly reflected in the tension of jazz music, his grace is not blue. It is red. Like blood.
Miller was right, though, that people need to be shown how to live and love as Christ did. This book does just that, and does it well. I hope you will check out the Red Like Blood website, where the authors continue the conversation. You can buy the book here.
Here is one of the authors talking about the book: