Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, my expectations for this book were low. As I worked my way through the book, however, I was pleasantly surprised by the solid, biblical advice for strengthening relationships.
Healthy friendships are costly. They require much more than we can humanly give if they are to flourish. And that is why Tripp and Lane emphasize the need for God's grace to pervade our lives in order for it to pervade our difficult relationships. And they are not talking about the flimsy interpretation of Mark 12:31 (that self love is necessary before you can love your neighbor.)
This quote sums up their philosophy:
Already Jesus has come to provide salvation for us, but his saving work is not complete.
Already the power of sin has been broken, but the presence of sin has not yet been eradicated. Already we have grown and changed in many ways, but we are not all we will be in Christ.
Already we have passed through much difficulty, but we have not yet climbed our final hill.
Already we have learned many lessons of faith, but we have not yet learned to trust God fully. Already God has established his kingdom in our hearts, but that kingdom has not yet fully come. Already we have seen the defeat of sin in many ways, but its final defeat has not yet taken place...
Our job is to learn how to best live in the middle. So we live as broken people who are being repaired, among neighbors in the same condition - always thankful for what has already been done, but ever aware of our need for more grace. (p. 108)
My favorite chapters were Chapter 10 on hope (especially the idea of a "sanctified imagination") and Chapter 12 on mercy, but the whole book is excellent.
Each chapter begins with real-life examples of relationships in crisis, which I could have done without. But I can see how they would help readers (to whom these concepts are new) to understand them. This would be a good book to study with a small group.