Over fifty times in the New Testament, Christians are taught that they must one another each other. Examples of this include, bearing each others burdens and thus fulfilling the law of Christ (Galatians 6:1) and loving one another (John 13:35). When God commands His people to do something He provides the means for their obedience. In this case, God has provided the Spirit to convict His people and empower them to make much of Jesus in relationships with His people and those outside of the church. Relational and emotional maturity are hugely important in the Christian life. After all, we’re taught in the Pauline and general epistles behaviors and attitudes that are to define the Christian life. In his new book Side By Side Walking With Others In Wisdom And Love Dr. Edward T. Welch helps provide practical guidance to loving and caring for one another in a way that will honor and glorify God and build God’s people up in the faith.
This book has two parts. In part one, the author demonstrates the fact that as people we’re needy—life is hard, our hearts are busy, hard circumstances meet hard hearts, sin weights a lot, cry out to the Lord for help from Him, and from others. In part two, the author looks at why we are needed. Here he explains the ministry of the Holy Spirit, one anothering each other, the importance of thoughtful conversations, enjoying God’s grace together, telling stories of God’s grace to one another, compassion, praying for one another, spiritual warfare, talking to one another about sin in our lives, and helping fellow sinners while keeping the gospel story central in our hearts and lives. The book concludes by calling God’s people to walk alongside of each other.
As a teenager, I remember being taught about the importance of walking alongside of people. I wasn’t only taught this truth I was modeled it. I went through a very difficult and turbulent period of time in my teenage years where my parents fought and eventually divorced. It was a rough time for me. One of the blessings of that period of time in my life was my youth pastor and the youth elder who took me under their wing. They provided guidance for me. They listened. They cared. That meant the world to me at the time and still does. They modeled what it means to be a man of God. They taught me the importance of regularly reading my Bible and attending church. Sure, my parents taught me a lot about the Christian faith as well. These two men from church taught me though what it means to walk alongside and care for people. They taught me the importance of being a godly young man. As I read Side by Side by Dr. Welch, I felt like I was again in high school listening and learning from two older men whose example helped me become the man I am today.
Side by Side is a very important book. It’s important not only because what Dr. Welch says is biblical but because of how practical it is. Often times we can read verses outlining how we as Christians are to behave. We often strive so hard to meet the standard of holy conduct in our lives only to fail. After awhile some people give up and say, “Well God didn’t help me.” We shouldn’t say that. Instead, we should be honest with God and with one another that we don’t understand. We should ask the Holy Spirit to teach us His Word and to provide teachers to help us grow in our understanding of the Word of God. This book contains very practical and biblical advice on how to implement what Dr. Welch is teaching. Instead of mere platitudes, the author provides concrete relational conversations that demonstrate the point he is making. This is extremely helpful and will help readers to grasp his teaching and apply it to their life.
One of the great tragedies in the Church, today is that we often don’t ask for clarification on a point someone is making. Instead, we often run ahead of what the person is saying, often assuming the worse, which results in dismissing the person entirely. When I say that I’m talking about myself as well. Instead, I’ve learned to not assume the worse about people and to ask for clarification. There is a difference between asking for clarification and offering push back to what people say. The difference is in tone. Asking for clarification first is important to make sure you’re understanding what someone is saying. For example, after someone offers thoughtful criticism I may repeat what they’ve said. I might say something like this, “If I’m following you correctly you said…” and then state what they said. I may not have heard them correctly. Most of the time, they will say I’m right. I may agree with them or I may not. If I don’t agree or still don’t understand I might ask for additional clarification even an example of how I’m not displaying that particular truth they are speaking about in my own life. The point is before you give pushback to people make sure you’re understanding what they say.
As Christians, we need books like Side by Side. We need to grow healthy relationships that are grounded in the Word of God and that are nurtured and sustained by the deep reservoir of the gospel. In this book, Dr. Welch unpacks what being a Christian looks like in relationships. It means taking what we believe seriously even as we don’t take ourselves seriously and instead truly focus on loving God and one another. I highly recommend this book for every Christian, every small group, and every church committed to being equipped to one another as God has commanded in His Word. Whether you’re a new Christian or have been a Christian you’re entire life this book will help you to grow in your understanding of God’s Word and then apply that knowledge to your everyday relationships in your family, with friends, at work, and at church.