Mark McMinn, a clinical psychologist and professor at Wheaton College in Illinois, admits he's spent a good deal of his adult life trying to understand grace. Insight came as he read Henri J.M. Nouwen's Return of the Prodigal Son and eventually stood in front of Rembrandt's painting of the same name.

"The father's lavish mercy could not be understood without the story of the son's outlandish rebellion and rejection of the father," McMinn writes, adding later that "Sin and grace are part of the same story, and if we leave out either part, we end up with a shallow, life-draining theology."

Sin matters because "the language of sin is the way we shed the armor of prideful self-defense."

Changing our disordered passions—our sinfulness—is a lifelong calling, not a quick fix. Gently, through personal stories that are by turns humorous and poignant, McMinn reminds us that, "God knows every darkened corner of our existence, every rebellious thought, every distorted passion, every insecurity … and still God chooses to reach out with forgiveness and grace."

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