Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book Review: Beautiful Outlaw

This is the first of John Eldridge's books that I've read in a while, and I can't be more glad that I picked this one up. In his book, Beautiful Outlaw, Eldridge seeks to remove the "religious fog" that we've surrounded Jesus with to help show who the real Christ is so that we may come to experience the radical, life changing Jesus every day of our lives.

We've all seen how text messages and emails have been misconstrued- when we were trying to be sarcastic people thought we were serious. It is the danger of the written word- interpretation is dependent on the reader. Eldridge argues that we've done the same with the gospels. To most people, Jesus is as two dimensional as his pious stained-glass image in churches across the world. As a result our relationships with him are equally as two dimensional as we struggle to see him as anything more than a God perched on a throne in the clouds.

Jesus never meant to hide himself from us. He longs to be known by us. It is the reason he came down to to us. It is the reason he gave up his life for us. It is easy for us to forget the humanity of his existence- we can acknowledge that Jesus is both fully God and fully man but in the back of our minds we question how much he really was "fully man" as if it was more of an elaborate hoax. Eldridge makes the analogy that we often think it was like Einstein dropping in on a first grade math test. But this isn't so. The one who created Heaven and Earth had to learn to walk, to speak, and to craft wood in his dad's carpentry shop. God took on flesh and truly became one of us.

Jesus had a personality- just like you and me and that's often misrepresented when we see depictions of him in his bright white robes, perfectly combed hair, and pale skin. Countless stories in the gospels show him to be funny, extravagant, playful, a great friend, able to speak the words perfectly that people need to hear, able to feel extreme sadness, and a host of other characteristics that are easy to gloss over the 30th time we read the story of his encounter with the Roman centurion.

What Eldridge does not do is design a more palatable Jesus for today's culture. He does a great job of using scripture and research to back up his ideas to help breathe life and personality into a Biblical figure that in my own life has been far too flat. The point of all of it is to show the reader that the same resurrected Christ that met his best friends out on the beach to make breakfast for them just days after his crucifixion (John 21:1-14) is the same Jesus that wants to be known by you daily in your life- so that we may live in the richness of truly knowing the one who created us.

I have been greatly encouraged to open my heart and let God reveal himself to me in new ways and to be more passionate about pursuing a relationship with him instead of merely checking off the boxes of Christianity. In the last few days I've heard Christ speaking to me and I know this is the relationship he intended to have with us- not a far off, distant appreciation of a holy figure, but an intimate connection to the one who saved me. I look forward to reading this book again several times in the future.

You may also like:
Living a Man's Story
The Bible in a Year
Preparing for Family Expansion

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