Who is Jesus? No, really. Who is He? Maybe you’ve asked that question a time or two.
When you think of Jesus, your description might not match mine, or your neighbor’s, or your mother’s. Our personal perceptions of Jesus are based on many different things --- our family upbringing, our church beliefs, our biblical interpretations, our present circumstances, or media influence. There are countless published materials about the life of Jesus. But in his latest book, BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW, bestselling author John Eldredge does more than talk about the life Jesus lived. He invites us to take a closer look at the human personality of Jesus --- a personality, Eldredge claims, that is playful, disruptive, extravagant, scandalous: “Reading the Gospels without knowing the personality of Jesus is like watching television with the sound turned off. The effect is a dry, two-dimensional person saying strange, undecipherable things.”
"BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW is down to earth and easy to read. [Eldredge's] enthusiasm shines through, carrying with it remarkable insight and plenty of humor."
In the first half of BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW, we dig into the many different facets of Jesus’ personality --- his human personality. With plenty of scripture references and full Bible passages, we see how Jesus is playful, fierce, extravagantly generous, disruptively honest, humble, true, loving, beautiful, even cunning. We look at His life on earth and learn how He was fierce in his stand against religion, how compassionate He was toward sinners, how He represented true humility by his willingness to be brought into this world as a helpless baby, and how some of the stories in the Gospels might reveal a playful side of Jesus we’ve never considered before. We are reminded of His physical hunger, His need for rest, His desire to be alone to grieve the death of John the Baptist, His humanness.
The second half of the book deals with our relationship with Jesus and how we can allow Jesus to be Himself --- with us, personally. Eldredge says there are two steps to making this happen: knowing what to look for (which should come as a result from reading the first half of the book and getting to know Jesus’ personality traits) and removing some of the junk that has been piled in the way of our ability to truly know and experience Him.
In chapter 15, “Clearing Away the Religious Fog,” we’re given several religious beliefs to which we may relate. They include “False Reverence Replaces Loving Jesus.” “Knowing about God Substitutes for Knowing God.” “Religious Activity is Confused with Commitment to Christ.” “Christian Service Substitutes for Friendship with Jesus.” “Holiness is Substituted with Rule-Keeping.” “False Humility is Honored.” “There is Safety in Distance.” Using biblical and contemporary real-life examples, Eldredge tells it like it is. There is no sense of judgment, as Eldredge shares many personal stories, yet nothing is sugar-coated, and the potential for conviction is certainly there.
In keeping with the style Eldredge is known for in his other books, including WILD AT HEART and WAKING THE DEAD, BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW is down to earth and easy to read. His enthusiasm shines through, carrying with it remarkable insight and plenty of humor. He clearly has a passion for helping others see the Bible in a new way and experience Jesus to the fullest extent.
Near the end of the book, Eldredge states, “There seem to be two basic reactions when sincere folk encounter the beautiful, scandalous life of Jesus: I can’t possibly do that, or, I want to try to live like him.” While reading BEAUTIFUL OUTLAW, we might pay attention to which reaction we find ourselves having. It’s quite possible that by the end of the book, you will no longer be wondering “Who is Jesus?” but will ask the question, “Who am I and how can I be more like Him?”
Reviewed by Lynda Schab on January 17, 2012