Book Review: Side by Side – walking with others in wisdom and love

Side by Side –

walking with others in wisdom and love

Written by Edward T. Welch

Reviewed by Lynn Salvin

I was asked to read and review this book and initially it did not look like a lengthy read! However, at the end of each chapter under the heading DISCUSSION and RESPONSE, it asks some questions that do require lengthy consideration and reflection to answer.

In case you are already thinking this is not a book for me, and it perhaps sounds like too much hard work, let me share two quotes from the author which spoke loudly to me:

God has determined that run-of the mill people do most of his work – not professionals, not experts.

All these gifts exist, so that we can serve one another in love.

As the book’s title tells us, it is about being side by side with one another, but I think it is very much about giving and receiving too.

This book could be a resource to share with others, discuss thoughts and explore answers.  Equally, as I did, you can read Side by Side as an individual to savour and reflect upon the points it makes towards your own personal development.

Throughout the book there are biblical texts that support and illustrate the points being drawn out.

A new commandment I give to you,  that you love one another: just as I have loved you.

John 13:34

The author starts with this in the introduction reminding us that Jesus came to serve rather than be served.  We should follow this.

For me, it isn’t always easy or clear how to go about showing Christian love and friendship to absolutely everyone I meet. I find it tricky anyway!  But I think this book gives you key tips on how to go about searching yourself first, in order to be able to reach out more confidently to others.

I certainly can feel inadequate when meeting someone for the first time, others may do too.  Side by Side encourages us and offers practical tips to push beyond that awkward first conversation.

Part one of the book helps us to understand ourselves better by looking honestly and more deeply.  Looking at our own neediness and sin and seeing our own need for repentance seems a good place to start.

This preparation is important to get alongside one another.  It highlights how important self-reflection is as a starting point. It’s not just about giving help, but about receiving it too.  It identifies the importance of being able to ask for help for ourselves and how that might be a difficulty that we need to recognise and overcome first.

I really liked the suggestion that the “ordinary” person can be just as skilled in helping others and indeed, we may find ourselves unexpectedly in the middle of circumstances presented to us.

We can be readily available as an on-the-spot resource by the very nature of being in the right place at the right time, where God puts us in fact.  The author equips us to have the confidence in our own skills to act in these circumstances.

This may become even more important post COVID, when trained professional counsellors have even longer waiting lists.

The book illustrates examples of how our heart can be good, bad or indeed both at times and how we can respond in different ways to trouble and suffering by either blaming God or trusting God.

Suddenly, ordinary people had extraordinary impact.

Part two of the book gives a good overview of where this book can take us.

The author refers to the change that came about through Jesus’s life, death and resurrection and out of that came those who have the Spirit in them to show God’s love and care.

At this point, the book outlines that we are designed for mutual relationship with one another, we need one another. It has useful bullet pointed lists of the gifts to make us good helpers and applications of God’s wisdom in daily life.  It covers moving towards one another, encouraging us to be bold and take the initiative – not easy!

There are helpful suggestions on who we should prioritise, for example new visitors to church and, there are valuable tips on conversation, from how to be a good listener to the pitfalls to avoid!

The final chapters cover compassion, temptation, and lead onto the deeper and more difficult areas of talking about sin and how we can prepare ourselves when given an opportunity to help fellow sinners….and the author reinforces how we ALL need this help.

Hopefully if you take time to read this book it may encourage you to have the confidence to reach out to someone and the run-of the mill can become extraordinary!