Book Review: JESUS > RELIGION by Jefferson Bethke

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To the world around us, there are often only two belief categories: you either are religious (believe in God) or you’re not (atheist).

However, there is a (often blurred) line between the cultural construct of religion and the human-spirit possibility of faith. The one is human-driven, law-focused and (more often than not) judgmental towards its ‘wayward’ peers.

The other is Spirit-driven and ideally grounded in the mercy of a Love no one can deserve through (trying to be) perfection embodied but rather because of acknowledgement of being a sinful mortal.

“We exchange a relationship with God with a bunch of church games,” Jefferson writes in the chapter titled ‘Fundies, Fakes and Other So-Called Christians’.

He tackles issues such as fundamentalism, hypocrisy and beliefs such as punishment and rewards without cutting any corners.

The reader is addressed like a confidant. Without pretending better to be than his worst sin, the author shares his weaknesses and struggles as if with a close friend.

Overall the book confronts readers with the great grace and eternal love God holds for His children, regardless of their inability to fully live up to its greatness.

The grace does license a sin-filled life, but rather provides freedom from the slavery of deeds leading to destruction.

The widespread association of religion with and generalised idea of church are cracked in his final chapter: ‘Why Jesus Loves the Church (and You Should Too)’.

“When you take the mask off, you run the risk being rejected. And not just rejected for your fake self, but being rejected for your vulnerable self,” he relates, referring to his experience of  “coming clean”.

The book nudges each believer towards a self-assessment of his or her faith. Is it based on a relationship with Jesus, which can sometimes get messy when you see how absolutely imperfect you are? Or is it based on this idea of Christianity that you can hide behind, hoping it ‘saves’ you from being exposed as the sinful human in need of a Saviour?

Moreover Jefferson’s impartation of his realisations through his relationship with Christ gives way to an admission every honest person comes to face at some point: what we become, if anything better than being part of the disease, has very little to do with being ‘good’ and everything to do with how mercifully good the Creator is.

“What do you do when the only thing you want to do is yell at God and tell him how awful it is? […] Cry. Yell. Scream. Be honest. Be transparent. And be vulnerable,” he advises under the topic of suffering: ‘Where is God when it Hurts?’

How’s that for getting real about being flesh?

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