I am updating my blog page and just finished moving The Jesus I Never Knew from my "currently reading" section to the "good reads" section. This book has grabbed a hold of me like no other book I have read. It is what I would call "one of my favorites" on the one hand, yet on the other, it disturbs me greatly. It has made me uncomfortable. It has given me a picture of Jesus that I did not have before, and it has given me an even clearer picture of the GREAT CHASM that exists between the example Jesus laid out for me and the way I live my life. This book has challenged me to reexamine some deeply held beliefs in my Christian life. It has also bothered me because I have become aware of more areas where I say I want to follow Christ, but when I am brought face to face with what that means, alarmingly I hear myself say, "That is NOT what I want." What I mean is, I do "want" to live that way, but honestly, I do not want to pay the price.
What I have found, as I am trying to process all this book has brought to my mind and heart, is that I am not riddled with guilt, rather I am challenged to draw closer to Jesus and let Him change what is wrong in my heart...in the very core of who I am. I feel the pain of falling short, but I also feel a certain sense of adventure as I see how my life could be changed...again. Hmmm...I guess what I am trying to describe is what is hinted at in the title of the book "The Jesus I Never Knew". Words fail to describe adequately what is going on in my heart. I think it will take several days of journaling to pour out all of this before the Lord.
I will leave you with the two things that have most challenged me, and I will share them in a very general way. If I try to quote specifics from the book, I will be here all night and this post will become a book!
The first and most challenging thought had to do with the people who felt most comfortable around Jesus...those who sought Him out. These people were cheats (tax collectors), prostitutes, the sick, poor, social outcasts, vile people (a thief on the cross). Who was most UNcomfortable around Jesus? Religious people. And it was a mutual thing...Jesus was most comfortable around non-religious people. Why is it that the church (myself being the perfect example) has gotten this so backwards today? Why is it that "sinners" do not seek out the Church, rather they are repulsed by us? And why am I so uncomfortable around the people Jesus spent His time ministering to?
And being a deeply patriotic person, the second thought that greatly challenged me was being reminded again that Jesus' kingdom was so far opposite from what people of his time expected (a conquering Messiah) that they didn't even recognize Him. Jesus did not try to change the world through politics or social activism. At this point, I'm not taking down my Fred Thomas links from my blog and I'm not going to "un-register" as a Republican, but I have been deeply challenged to reconsider the "hope" I put "Christianizing" people through social reform, politics, the American Dream and the powers of the "Moral Majority". Jesus' kingdom will not come about through electing a Republican president and Congress or through legislating morality. I still believe I have a responsibility to care for the blessing God has given America by being a voice for Him and for righteousness in this great country, but God is challenging my thinking. His kingdom and his heart includes those on the "other side" of my political walls.
How wide the gap between Jesus' example and my life. A rebuke, a challenge...an adventure.