First and foremost, it changes everything. It has changed my view of Jesus. It has changed my view of myself in relation to Jesus. It has changed my view of religious practices that skew my view of both Jesus and myself. It lets me know that it’s okay that I grew up not fitting into the church culture. My instincts were spot-on. But no one told me that until now.
While reading Beautiful Outlaw, the four books of the Bible that feature Jesus’s life stop sounding like paintings on the Vatican wall. Nor are his lofty sayings something to be puzzled over and deciphered by us mere mortals; they are filled with humor, sarcasm, wit, ferocity — and they make sense! Why? Because Eldredge painstakingly explores the multifaceted personality of Jesus. He helps his readers reestablish the fact that God does have a personality — and one that is not all lightning bolts or chubby baby cherubs. The first facet Eldredge explores is Jesus’s playfulness. God? Playful? You bet. And it’s one heck of an icebreaker. Other facets of who he is and what he’s like fall under chapter headings like “Extravagant Generosity,” “Fierce Intention,” “Scandalous Freedom,” and “Cunning.” Jesus, cunning? How else did he win debates against those learned men? Scandalous? One isn’t hated and hunted when one plays it safe.
The last third of the book then explores how we are to respond to this information. This may not be the Jesus we learned about in Sunday school, and so this book is challenging, as well as eye-opening. Sick of doom and gloom Jesus? Give this book a shot. Unable to live up to holier-than-thou Jesus? Read this book. And this is where I will step on toes: if a follower of Christ can read Beautiful Outlaw cover to cover and not love Jesus on a deeper level, a more concrete, real, life-changing level, there is something scary going on.
If church culture is offensive to you or causes you to step away and ask, “Why do they act like that? Why do they talk like that?”, or if Jesus has long been “that good guy in the sky” and you long for more, this is the book, folks. Each chapter brings Jesus into sharp focus, from airy and mysterious, to immediate, real, in the flesh with dust on his feet.
This is a book I will return to over and over again. It’s already marked up, fingerprinted, dogeared, and dirty. Sorta like Jesus must’ve looked after a long walk between towns. It earns a solid five fish:
***Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge, published by Faith Words (2011), may be found online and in your local bookstore.