Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus
Review posted March 27, 2013.
Faith Words, New York, 2011. 219 pages.
In Beautiful Outlaw, John Eldredge looks at the personality of Jesus. He points out that Jesus was not the sort of person who didn't make waves. He does an amazing job of causing the reader to take a fresh look.
What is missing in our Gospel reading -- and in our attempts to "read" what Jesus is saying and doing in our own lives right now, this week -- is his personality, undraped by religion. Let's see if we can find it.
Now, I'm well-versed in the Gospel story. I've read about Jesus over and over again. But John Eldredge was able to make even me see Jesus in a fresh light. I felt like he was saying, Remember? This is what Jesus is like. Here's his take on the Gospel story:
Any way you look at it, it is a beautiful story. Playful, funny, so human, so hopeful, so unreligious. And it is that particular quality that gives the passage its true character and gives us an essential for knowing Jesus as he really is. The man is not religious. If he were, the story would have taken place in a religious setting -- the temple, perhaps, or at least a synagogue -- and Jesus would have gathered them for a Bible study or prayer meeting. Jesus doesn't even show up at the temple after his resurrection. He's at the beach, catching his boys fishing, filling their empty nets and then having them to breakfast.
The subtitle talks about the aspects of Jesus' personality the author focuses on: He's playful, disruptive, and extravagant. But all of this talk about Jesus' personality is to tell us it's worth it to let Jesus' life fill our lives. He's talking about Christ living in us.
As we love him, experience him, allow his life to fill ours, the personality of Jesus transforms our personalities. The timid become bold and the bold become patient and the patient become fierce and the uptight become free and the religious become scandalously good. "They looked to Him and were radiant" (Psalm 34:5 NASB). They looked to Jesus and became like him. Loving Jesus helps us to become what human beings were meant to be. As Athanasius said, "He became what we are that we might become what he is."
In short, this book is about looking hard at who Jesus really is, and then letting Him change who we really are.