Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners: Loving Others as God Loves Us

Michael R. Emlet
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A friend feels rejected. A counselee is angry. A church member's child is ill. You want to help, but where do you begin? Author and counselor Michael R. Emlet outlines a model of one-another ministry based on how God sees and loves his people primarily as saints, while bringing comfort to the sufferer, and faithfully speaking truth to the sinner.

Filled with everyday illustrations as well as counseling examples, Emlet demonstrates what it looks like to approach fellow believers simultaneously as saints, sufferers, and sinners. Emlet unpacks Scripture and draws on his many years of counseling experience to help counselors, pastors, and friends love others wisely and well.

As part of CCEF's Helping the Helper series, this guide for ministry provides an overall framework for wisely helping any person by loving others in the same way that God loves us.


Michael R. Emlet, MDiv, MD, practiced as a family physician for over ten years before becoming a counselor and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He is the author of the books CrossTalk: Where Life & Scripture Meet and Descriptions and Prescriptions: A Biblical Perspective on Psychiatric Diagnoses and Medications and the minibooks Asperger Syndrome, Chronic Pain, Angry Children, Help for the Caregiver, and Overeating: When Enough Isn't Enough.

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"In this Scripture-saturated book, Michael Emlet uses real-life counseling interactions and insights gained from years of counseling and training counselors to demonstrate how we can love, listen to, grieve with, challenge, and accept the people around us in ways that befit the gospel of the grace of Jesus."
Nancy Guthrie, Author of Saints & Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus

"Michael Emlet has written a very compassionate, biblical, and helpful book, with practical guidelines for how to love others as God loves us. It emphasizes the need to hold all three truths in a balanced perspective for every person: as a saint in Christ, a sufferer, and a sinner. Highly recommended!"
Siang-Yang Tan, Professor of Psychology, Fuller Theological Seminary; author of Shepherding God's People and Counseling and Psychotherapy: A Christian Perspective

"Dr. Michael Emlet has given us a treasure. He's primarily focused on how we relate to others through the triple lens of saint, sufferer, and sinner. He's particularly strong at blending those lenses together. The result? You can begin to look at and treat people as fully human. His experience as a counselor grounds his thoroughly biblical insights in real life. This immensely helpful book isn't just for counselorsÑit's for all of Jesus's followers."
Paul Miller, Author of A Praying Life and J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life

"As Christians, we know we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, but it can be hard to know what it means to offer love to our neighbors on the ground in concrete, daily ways. In this deep, rich, and practical book, Michael Emlet draws on Scripture and years of experience as a Christian husband, parent, church member, and counselor to help us more faithfully and fully love our neighbors, our spouses, our children, and all whom God brings into our lives. Through this exploration of what it means that we are all simultaneously saints, sufferers, and sinners, which is shaped by the wisdom of the Bible on every page, those who read this book will come away better equipped to fulfill the Great Commandment in the quotidian moments of everyday life and ministry."
Kristen Deede Johnson, Award-winning author; dean and professor of Theology and Christian Formation, Western Theological Seminary

"This book will give you a fuller view of yourself and those you love. It is clear, helpful, gentle, and wise, which just happens to be the way I would describe Mike."
Edward T Welch, Faculty and counselor, Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation (CCEF); author of A Small Book for the Anxious Heart

"Every person who seeks counseling brings a unique blend of history, beliefs, behaviors, circumstances, and relationships, but there are fundamental truths that apply broadly to every person we minister to. Our identity before God as saints, sufferers, and sinners is perhaps the foundational truth upon which our counseling stands. Saints, Sufferers,and Sinners offers a deeply biblical and theological understanding of this reality and demonstrates how this broad principle fleshes out in the counseling experience with ground level practical application."
Curtis Solomon, Executive Director, The Biblical Counseling Coalition

"Two things I appreciate about Michael Emlet's new book: 1) Its clarity regarding the realities of believers being saints, sufferers, and sinners while we walk this earth, and 2) Its realistic application of our identity in Christ affecting each of these dimensions of our lives in the way that we live, love, counsel, encourage, correct, and repent for the sake of others."
Bryan Chapell, Pastor; author

"Too often we speak only to parts of people because we only see part of them: they just need to get over their sin, just need compassion because life has been hard, just need faith because it's all that matters. Mike Emlet's Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners refuses to over-simplify. Instead, Emlet enables his readers in concrete, biblically rich ways to simultaneously take all three aspects of our Christian, human reality seriously. Full of winsome case studies, this book brims with wisdom in action about gently responding to sin, practical ways to encourage, and how to offer meaningful comfort to those who suffer. Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners is the product of a lifetime of godliness from a man whose compassion and humble grace come through on every page. This must become a foundational book for biblical counselors of every type for generations to come."
Alasdair Groves, Executive Director, Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation(CCEF);coauthor of Untangling Emotions

"As a counselor, the value of seeing how the gospel speaks in unique ways to sin, suffering, and our identity as saints has been pivotal. As a pastor, these balanced truths are essential to being a good ambassador of the gospel. Michael Emlet's work in Saints, Sufferers, and Sinnersis a must read for anyone wanting to accurately apply the gospel to the full breadth of human experience."
Brad Hambrick, Pastor of Counseling at The Summit Church; assistant professor of Biblical Counseling, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; general editor for Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused

"Many of us err in tending to see 'the problem' in ourselves or in others as only one of sin or idolatry, or entirely one of suffering, and in focusing on either we can forget that all God's people are also saints in whom the Spirit is at work already. Saints, Sufferers, and Sinners helps us see people as they really are. Where others stop, this accessible yet profound book also equips us for talking to those not yet safe in Christ's kingdom. This book is everyday practical, richly biblical, and wonderfully re-balancing."
Andrew Nicholls, Director of Pastoral Care, Oak Hill College, London

"With the precision of a physician and the compassion of a counselor, Michael Emlet offers readers a template for engagement and relationship that will help you reimagine gospel-centered counseling. Saturated in Scripture and brimming with real-life case studies, one can quickly recognize this is the fruit of many years of study in Scripture and walking with our Savior. Michael is the exact type of counselor I would want walking alongside me in my journey of faith."
Jonathan D. Holmes, Pastor of Counseling, Parkside Church; executive director, Fieldstone Counseling

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3 Reviews

  • 5
    Great book for every person in ministry!

    Posted by Alistair Chalmers on 02 22 2021

    The church should be a place where people find comfort, where people find a family and where people are cared for. Caring for others within the church is not a job reserved for the paid staff of a church. Caring for each other is the job of every Christian. We are one body, called to labour alongside each other and act as a family should. This will man that you’ll be confronted with situations and people who need care but you might feel out of your depth. Here’s something to help… In this book Emlet, a Christian counsellor with CCEF, helps you think about how to love the people that God has put alongside you in church. The book is written to equip Christians to love one another better. The target audience of this book is those in ministry, however, I think that every Christian who reads it would find it very helpful. Emlet begins by saying that in the Bible God reveals that He ministers to His people as; Saints who need confirmation of their identity as children of God, Sufferers who need comfort in the midst of their affliction, and Sinners who need challenge to their sin in light of God’s redemptive mercies. “Saint, sufferer, and sinner. All three of these are simultaneously true of every Christian you meet. If this is the way God sees and loves his people, then we should do the same, using these broad biblical categories to guide our overall approach to the people in our lives. They are signposts for wise love. They help you to prioritize one-another ministry, whether it’s to your friend, husband, wife, roommate, child, coworker, or counselee.” The book is split into 5 parts. Part one give you the foundational work on how to understand people and it unpacks the ‘identities’ above (saints, sufferers and sinners). Part two explores how to care for other Christians as saints. Part three is all about how to care for the sufferer, filled with examples and helpful advice throughout. Part four is about how to love fellow believers as sinners. Part five is about how to maintain a balance as you care for others and to not focus too much on one particular ‘identity’. Parts 2-4 each take the same pattern; Speaking of how the Bible addresses the person as saint, sufferer or sinner. Biblical examples of how God loves the person. The particular priorities that would help each individual person. Everyday examples of what that could look like. Counselling examples of what that could look like. An exploration of some of the barriers to loving each person. This book is very practical, it’s full of sound biblical advice and it’s got so many stories of how the Lord has done wonderful things in people’s lives because Christians stepped up and cared for one another. It’s so easy to look at other people and think that there situation is simple, easy to fix. However, that can be the result of an over simplified view of humanity. The reality is that we are messy people and that doesn’t stop when we become Christians. This book is a call to love each other well. Something that we definitely need reminding of often. As I finished this book I wanted there to be more, it got the balance just right of giving you enough information and insight without overloading you. It was a really helpful read and I would recommend it to you if you’re in ministry and you’re confronted daily with caring for church members in a wide variety of situations.

  • 5

    Posted by Jesvin Jose on 01 29 2021

    This is a tremendously helpful book from CCEF counsellor Michael Emlet. Emlet gets to the heart of what is true of every believer: we are saints who suffer and saints who sin. He begins by telling us: “Saint, sufferer, and sinner. All three of these are simultaneously true of every Christian you meet.” This book is a Biblical guide to help us love others well. It is also a window into our own hearts. It is so compellingly written and beautifully thought out. Here are some things that stood out for me. First, Emlet shows us that Jesus beautifully fulfils the categories of the Ultimate Saint, the Suffering Servant and the Sinless One who became sin. Then he shows us how to practically love others as saints, sufferers and sinners. Then in the final section, he brings it all together by showing us how to remain balanced in ministry, without overemphasizing or minimizing any of these three aspects of human experience. In the final chapter, he points us to that day of Christ’s return when there will be no more suffering and sin: On that day, “we will be saints who no longer suffer, saints who no longer sin.” Each chapter is brimming with Biblical insight and is backed up with practical examples from Emlet’s counselling ministry. Emlet rightly shows us from Scripture that our identity as “saint” is foundational, more foundational than the identities of “sufferer” or “sinner”. He writes, “We are saints who suffer. We are saints who sin. But we are saints nonetheless at our core.” He shows us how Paul begins with the ministry of affirming the identity of the Corinthians as saints of God (1 Corinthians 1:1-9), even though Paul is going to address sin issues in the church. “Their very real and pressing problems don’t change their fundamental identity”, writes Emlet. He then gives Biblical and counselling examples to show us how this works out practically. This was such a helpful section for me personally. In the next two parts, Emlet shows us how to love others as sufferers and sinners. He shows us how the suffering of God’s people is front and center in Scripture, how Jesus came to suffer and relieve suffering and how God is at work in our suffering. He then looks at Revelation 2:8-11 to show us how God loves and speaks to sufferers. He gives us four ministry priorities for loving sufferers well: 1) Taking the suffering of others seriously. 2) Working hard to understand the details. 3) Not presuming to know the reason(s) for suffering. 4) Sharing Biblical encouragement and hope. In the third section, Emlet points to three realities of sin: 1) Sin is an ever-present reality. 2) Saints still struggle with sin. 3) Our redeemed identity is the basis for obedience. Again, we are given solid Biblical and counselling examples to help us think through these categories well. There is so much to commend in this brilliant book. The material is beautifully organized and the last section beautifully ties everything together. Though the first section on saints was easily the most encouraging, the last section on remaining balanced in ministry helped me examine my heart to see where I have overemphasized or minimized any of these aspects in my own life and ministry to others. I will let Emlet have the last word: “Ministering wisely means that we hold all three aspects of human experience together even if at a given point in time, we focus on one because that is most needful for the person in front of us”. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. It is already my top book of the year. Highly recommended. 5/5 stars. *I received this complimentary book from New Growth Press, but was not required to write a positive review.*

  • 5
    Practical suggestions for helping others

    Posted by Joan Nienhuis on 01 26 2021

    Your friend from church needs some help. You're not a counselor so what do you say? How do you act? Emlet gives us valuable instruction in this book on helping others. While the Bible is not specific, it does give foundational ways to understand and help others. He notes early that what he teaches in this book is primarily for helping fellow believers. Emlet says every person needing your counsel is facing one of two issues. Every person is struggling with identity at some level which also knowing one's purpose. Every person is struggling with evil on some level, either done to them (suffering) or from within (sin). How God ministers to His people is the model. We are saints who need confirmation of our identity as children of God. We are sufferers who need comfort in our affliction. We are sinners who need to challenge our sin in light of God's mercy. Here is a concept I found particularly insightful. With regard to identity, we forget who we are and need to be reminded we are saints loved by God and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. A surprise for me was Emlet noting that we might have difficulty helping someone because we are not living our identity in Christ. That was thought provoking. Emlet's suggestions are so biblical. In helping those suffering, for example, he looks at how Jesus approached those suffering. He did not compare a person's suffering with that of another. He never gave an explanation for the suffering. Those are two areas where I have missed properly helping another. I am impressed with the teaching in this book. It is focused on how God approaches these issues and is quite practical. He includes many examples of his own work so we get a good feel for how this helping others is done. I highly recommend this book to every Christian. I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

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