The Fine Line

I have a problem. His name is Kary Oberbrunner. He has actually become a friend of mine. Well, he was a friend … up until he gave me a copy of his latest book, The Fine Line.

It wasn’t the title that bothered me. It wasn’t even the appearance of the book – its yellow-ness is quite appealing. And, since I’m always looking for ways to “rethink” topics and positions within my relationship with Jesus and within the church as a whole, it wasn’t the book’s bi-line (“Re-envisioning the Gap between Christ and Culture”) that caused such a stir within me.

The emotions began to flare up when I got to Chapter 7. It enraged me and, at the same time, caused me much discomfort. Read this excerpt and tell me how it makes you feel:

Every guy knows the rule.

You can talk about someone’s lack of athleticism, humor, or even intellect, but you never disrespect his girlfriend. A couple of years ago, I gave in. I broke the rule and badmouthed someone else’s girl. I was sitting in a coffee shop with a few of my buddies, and we started talking about a guy we all knew. We liked him, a lot. He was our friend. But his girl annoyed the heck out of us, and the negativity started to fly.

Ripping on this girl felt good because it helped to separate us from her. After all, nobody wants to be associated with a loser. And we were clearly associated with her. She had been part of our lives since we were kids. Most of us had even fallen in love with her at one point or another. Maybe that’s why we started throwing around the comments—we were insecure or hurt. I walked away from the coffee shop that night feeling pretty low. Although the conversation had been entertaining, I still felt convicted.

But the next week my buddies and I started to talk about our friend’s girl again. Only this time it was more intense. Mild dislike soon devolved into hatred. We started telling stories about how this girl offended us. She didn’t dress well or talk right. The music she liked was old and stuffy. But our main gripe was her looks. Put simply, she was as ugly as a dog. It was an ugliness that could be seen on the outside and the inside. Her entire look was outdated and irrelevant. She just didn’t fit in, and none of us wanted to be around her. We were ashamed to admit that we even knew her, much less that we used to hang out with her.

This went on for several months. And then it got worse. More people knew this girl than I first thought. At parties on the weekends it almost became an opening line—talking about this girl. I met more people than I can remember just by communicating my dislike for her. I had the lines memorized and my timing perfect. People howled as I told story after story about how ridiculous this girl was.

Then I ran into her guy.

I didn’t expect to see him. I just kind of bumped into him one day. As soon as I saw him, I realized how much I missed him. I didn’t even remember the last time I’d seen him. But my delight quickly changed to deep embarrassment. I could hardly even look at him.

He stood and looked me in the eye. “Why, Kary?” he asked quietly. “How could you talk about her like that?”

I could sense how much he loved her, and he could sense how much I hated her. His question bored a hole right through me. Why did I hate her so much? What had she ever done to me? Suddenly all my well-rehearsed insults and petty gripes seemed pretty trivial.

I dropped to my knees—I couldn’t help it. “Jesus,” I said to this guy, “I’m sorry I spoke about your bride, the church like that.”

Are you?

Like I was saying, it enraged me. But it wasn’t the words that Kary wrote that bothered me, it was the conviction I felt from within. I, too, have talked about another man’s girl. And let’s just be honest – that’s not right.

Kary is still my friend. And he does an amazing job with this book. There are few resources that explore this “Fine Line,” so take a minute and pick up a copy of it today (click the image below).

You will be challenged. I guarantee it.

Leave your thoughts below.


Excerpt from “The Fine Line: Re-envisioning the Gap between Christ and Culture” by Kary Oberbrunner. Published by Zondervan. ISBN 0310285453. To purchase the book from Amazon, click here.



Filed under Book Reviews, Featured Articles, Reviews

14 responses to “The Fine Line

  1. Pingback: First Negative Review « RECOVERING PHARISEE

  2. Thresa L. Davis

    Ouch! I too have been guilty of talking about that girl. I too have been made aware that it is unfair to and be critical of “that girl” because she is human like the rest of us and because she is so “out there” her mistakes and oddities are easily seen. God loves His church and yes, it is His with all of it’s flaws just as I am His with all of my flaws. He is still at work in and through His church inspite of it’s mistakes just as He is at work in and through me. This excerpt put a realness to it that has given me a deeper realization of what I knew but did not always have a cautioning empathy for that will help me from this point on to speak more gently and with more respect when acknowledging areas that need some work and change in “the girl”. Lastly, many of us often gorget that we are a part of “that girl” also, even though at times some of her is in denial. I can’t wait to read the book!

  3. Sam Skillern

    What a great story! What a great ending! Whoa… wow…

  4. Elizabeth Marek

    Great story and really creative lead-in. It always amazes me when people are not only convicted but submit and actually do something about their transgressions and ask forgiveness. It doesn’t happen nearly enough.

  5. Chris Flores

    Yeah, I don’t like Kary either….how dare he make me feel that way!

    Very Powerful, I pray the Lord will use this to reconstruct my thinking and heart! I gotta get this book….but will it just tear me down more!? I hope so! I’d do it for HIM! What am I saying? What am I doing?

  6. Candy Bryant

    This article is a good look inside most everyones lives. I think at times we all have been caught up in the “trashing” of someone. And usually, I find, it is due to our own insecurity. It some how makes us feel better about oursleves to make some one else “lower” than us. When reality is God made us all the same. We may dress, think, behave differently but we are all God’s creatures.
    Just because we disagree with how someone looks, talks, acts or whatever, does not however, give us the right to “trash”that person and worse yet spread that “trash”around.
    The old stand-by “put the shoe on the other foot” needs to come into play here.
    How would you feel if that were you they were talking about? Or your best friend, girlfriend, sister, or mother? The best way to handle a situation like this is to stop it at it’s very beginning.
    If you walk into a situation where people are dogging on someone, you have three choices to make. One , you can lower yourself and join in, or two, you can squash the comments immediately, or three you can walk away.
    Obviously, if you join in, you are only feeding the gossip frenzy that we all know quickly spirals out of control, then hateful, mean things get said that people may not even really mean.
    If you squash the gossip immediately, then you have taken the Godly road. You may get a little heat for it, but you can also hold your head high and know that God is smiling on you.
    If you walk away, well, at least you did not participate. But you are not standing up for one of God’s children either.
    The choice is ours to make. But think it through to the end. How would you feel if it was you or a family or friend that they were dogging on? What would you want someone to do for you then? Join in or squash?
    God was very clever in making us so many different personalities, colors, styles, attitudes, sizes etc. Wouldn’t life be boring if He had just one set mold that we were all made looking like?
    It all boils down to that pesky free will that He gave each of us.
    We all have many choices to make every day. We need to pray for God’s wisdom to make the right choices and stand behind them 100 %.

  7. Right from the third paragraph I knew where it was leading to.

    Ouch, I have stained the bride enough. Just yesterday I was thinking to myself how I was trying to “relate” to some non-Jesus followers. I had talked about one of the guys at church who didn’t treat another lady at church good (a business deal). I even said he was being an “ass”. In the past I would have protected my family better and let it be a thing dealt with “in family”. But in my desire to relate, I trashed the bride. In my mind I was trying to show “look, the church isn’t perfect”. I wonder by engaging in that conversation the way that I did, if I just painted an uglier version of the bride as opposed to a “real” version.

    God forgive me.
    God help me.

  8. Jared

    Chills went down my spine. And you successfully sold a copy of this book, gonna check it out.

  9. Miss Rose

    It’s practically trendy to trash-talk the local church. The funny thing is, this was a normal discussion when I was on staff at a church. Odd how Kary’s story is reflected in so many of our lives…

    On the other hand, I find myself talking up Mosaic or Imago Dei and more cutting edge churches because I tend to identify with and receive from the experience at these locations. And it’s true – I have an easier time “connecting” with God in some locations than in others.

    The bottom line:
    God is everywhere, in your church, in mine, in The Church.

    – Miss Rose

  10. Andy Post

    All I have to say is, WOW! That just devastated me, hit me like a ton of bricks. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Chad Gillock

    Awesome! Grabbed my attention immediately. I think the problem is that it is easier to “talk trash” about the church and her problems than it would be to roll up our sleeves and lend a hand to be part of the solution. Again, good thoughts and I certainly want to check out more of this book.

  12. “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for her; … So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife, loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, … This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. (Eph 5:25-33)

  13. I agree, and Kary nails it on the head in his book when he exposes the complete illogical, yet popular, sentiment , “I love Jesus….but can’t stand the church.”

  14. Jim

    Kary is my friend, too.

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