Jesus, I ask you for you. For the real you.
Those are the words I pray every day. I have been praying them since the beginning of December when I read the beginning of John Eldredge’s latest book Beautiful Outlaw. It took me a long time to pick up this book. Why? Because I didn’t want my image of Jesus to be challenged. Lame excuse, I know. But true.
I’m reading the book very slowly. I’m only into chapter three. I’m compelled to read each sentence over and over again, as though by doing so I will somehow imbue these words, this true image of Christ into the very fabric of my being. Who I thought Jesus was, what I have learned Christianity to be is not accurate. My vision is off. Or the picture I’m looking at is sadly out of focus.
I had this dream in September or October. So did Claire. In this dream, there was Jesus looking at the temple. Calmly watching the money changers and the swindlers who were preying upon the devote poor, the afraid, the weak. They were showing doves without blemish, pocketing the coin and marking an inferior beast for the sacrifice. The doves on display were promised over and over again to the trusting public who never realized they were the victims of a bait and switch scam.
There was Jesus, watching. Waiting. Calculating. And while the scene that had been playing itself out for centuries continued on, he started slowly, calmly weaving a whip out of several thin strips of leather.
Jesus was, and is, deliberate. He didn’t react out pure passion and righteous indignation at the temple that day. He watched. He likely prayed. And he fashioned a plan. I can’t speak for what went on in his mind as he went postal on the money changers. I don’t know if he acted out of rage or if he deliberately walked in and calmly upended the entire enterprise. But he was outraged. And in his way he was taking care of his people by confronting the issue and shining light on the truth so people could see they were following a false and errant practice, not what God intended.
The Jesus I met growing up is a savior of works. If you do good, you know you are saved. But you must continue to do good works or your salvation may be in question. Do, do, do and don’t worry about burn out. You’re doing for the Lord! He will sustain you and if you aren’t sustained, search your soul because there must be something unconfessed blocking your spiritual life. You know, like a lack of fiber can block the elimination of waste from the body.
Oh, and he was a Lord of rules. Always with the rules. Don’t listen to rock music. Don’t date. Don’t read about or think about sex. Ever. Don’t see movies with violence or sex. Don’t swear. Don’t indulge. Don’t put yourself first. Be mindful of pride. Don’t drink. Don’t dance. Real Christians live clean and pure lives. They are set apart by this completely unattainable goal. By trying to live by these rules, we remove ourselves so thoroughly for the world and God we are in danger of becoming the Pharisees. Caught up in outward expressions of devotion and in bondage to these rules.
I have been stifling and slowly dying under this yoke. And this is not Jesus. Not the true Jesus. This is a false Jesus pulling the wool over my eyes and hoping I toe the line and not question. For the moment I do I will see the false for what it is and will run.
But without the True Jesus, I leave myself open to be seduced by false representations of him. This is where Beautiful Outlaw is as healing as it is scary for me. It’s showing me a picture of God who became flesh and shining the light of truth on this picture so I cannot help but see the false images I’ve been worshipping. There can be shame in that. God is not a god of shame, however, so as I read the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear that Jesus loves me. Wholly. Completely. All he wants is for me to know him in all his glory and truth.
The shame, it’s all mine. The love, that’s all God. Jesus I ask you for you. The REAL you.