Monday, February 11, 2013

BookPastor >> "Shrewd" (Rick Lawrence)

The famous words of Jesus, to live as people wise as serpents, but innocent as doves, is the key truth that is expounded upon in this book. First published in  November 6th, 2012 at Panorama of a Book Saint.


TITLE: Shrewd: Daring to Live the Startling Command of Jesus
AUTHOR: Rick Lawrence
PUBLISHER: Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2012, (270 pages).

How did whole regimes that are powerful militarily and mighty politically still fall, like what happened recently in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and some countries in the Middle East Arab Spring revolution? How is it possible that the strong gets defeated by the weaker ones? How is it that one gentle listener is able to tame a wild and angry horse? All of this is due to one factor: Shrewdness.

This entire book is an exposition on the famous words of Jesus in Matthew 10:16, that disciples of Christ are to be "shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." Arguing that like Jesus who constantly practices shrewdness, disciples are urged to do the same. Examining shrewdness from many angles, Rick Lawrence provides many different nuances of what shrewdness is.
  • It is the right force, at the right time, at the right place;
  • It is a 4-step manner that comprises firstly a thorough understanding of certain processes or cultures; secondly an identification of a key point of leverage; thirdly a watchful applying of this leverage; and fourthly a repeating of this cycle until the matter is resolved in one's favour.
  • It is learning to be shrewd but not evil like the devil.
  • It is to be practised with innocence like freedom from guilt. In other words, shrewdness and innocence are to be PAIRED.
  • It is about learning to pay attention to the necessary, that will then come across through three habits. First, the habit of learning to ask one more question. Second, the habit of thinking like Sherlock Holmes of attention to necessary details and insightful deductions. Third, the habit of perseverance.
  • Learning to tango with the enemy and using the oblique way of persuading others to see our points of view. 
  • and many more.
These and others are then used to create a portrait of one having an MSL "degree": Masters in Shrewd Living. Lawrence argues that shrewd people bring life and freedom to the world, and change the world, even the strongest opposition. From Paul to the life of CS Lewis, and other examples, Lawrence puts forth his proposition that Jesus' every interaction with people represents "shrewd living." He talks about the benefits of being shrewd and at the same time the need to be as innocent as doves. He takes time to warn readers about the powers of the dark side, that we all live under the shadow of the snake. If we are not careful enough, we adopt the heart of the wolf, which is manipulative, deceptive, and evil. For all the clever strategies we can devise, if there is no innocence of the heart with regards to evil and sin, we may destroy not just ourselves and hurt the people we try to help. Thankfully, Lawrence also provides a positive look at what living as doves means.  It essentially means delivering goodness continually. This can be done through six angles of leverage, called the Elegant Levers.

The Lever of Humility is about emptying oneself in service for others, which is a powerful weapon against arrogance, self-inflation, and pride. The Lever of Blunt cuts through all the noise and frivolous details, and uses the right force at the right place, and at the right time. The Lever of Beauty displays goodness as sacrificial acts of service for others, releasing the fragrance of grace. The Lever of Pursuit is about "shameless persistence" to surprise with an unexpected question, to be specific about one big thing, and to ask intently for a personal response. All of these are acts of pursuing that key goal, to love others as we have been loved by God. The Lever of Laughter is about using humour as a "context changer," sometimes to disarm tense situations, poke holes in the defenses of others, and to help people relax. The Lever of Generosity is about giving and giving, that whatever we gain, we have an intention to eventually give it away.These levers are ways in which we can all be both shrewd and innocent.

My Thoughts

This is a remarkable book about one of Jesus' most quoted instructions to his disciples. I have seldom come across such an expanded treatment of the topic about the double imperative. Lawrence is able to grab the attention of readers with the many stories and illustrations he use. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter set the stage for the chapter. The systematic way in which Lawrence explains shrewdness and innocence individually, and then makes the case that they are to be practised together. At times, I do sense some of the actions suggested border on manipulation strategies, especially the part about trying to find ways to peel through the defenses of others. Only when the strategy is paired with the motivation and the final goal can it be justified as shrewd behaviour and innocence. I think one of the biggest struggles among many Christians is that they are not able to distinguish shrewd from cunning, foolishness from innocence. Thankfully, this book shows the way, that to be innocent does not mean that we cannot be tough. It also means that to be shrewd does not mean that we are crafty with an evil bent. Put together, with love as an all abiding way of life, we can truly learn to become Masters of Shrewd Living.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me free by David C. Cook Publishers and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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