Another great find from our friend Luke Mackinnon.

Getting Jesus Wrong, written by Matt Johnson, is an insightful invitation to give up spiritual vitamins and checklist Christianity. The freelance writer and editor gives a breath of fresh air to the worn out soul trying to follow caricatures of Jesus that are far from the Jesus we read about in the Bible. Johnson assures us that life does not become better by swallowing religious pills or crossing things off inventories, but becomes better by God’s grace and Christ’s sacrifice. This comes from the chapter titled “The Problem,” and it unearths our tendency to shove Jesus into the mold we want him to be instead of grasping his true essence and character on the cross.

Everyone has an image of Jesus they prefer, a Jesus who values what they value: Tough-guy Jesus, Wise Sage Jesus, Bearded, Tattooed, Skinny Jeans Jesus, Khakis and Polo Shirt Jesus, Suit and Tie Conservative Jesus, or Social Revolutionary Jesus. On a deeper level, our personal images of Jesus reveal that we think the Christian faith is about furthering our hopes and dreams, and that Jesus is the primary catalyst for getting us where we want to be in life. This is another way of saying, in the words of Gerhard Forde, we all are ‘inverted theologians of glory.’ When we operate within the glory-story paradigm, it reveals we’re in love with all the attractiveness of power, influence, success, or possessions, and we call it being ‘blessed.’ We’re encouraged by all the cliché slogans ‘reach for the stars’ and ‘don’t give up on your dreams,’ but then like a flaky boyfriend or girlfriend, when we don’t ‘feel the chemistry’ anymore, when real life really falls apart, suddenly our relationship with Jesus is on shaky ground…

God works in ways that are the opposite of our lofty imaginings. If we take the story of Jesus at bare-bones face value, he wasn’t a great success. God sent Jesus into the world to be born in a barn. He was born into scandal (imagine the naysayers: ‘Yeah, right, Mary conceived of the “Holy Spirit”’), he worked a regular job, he didn’t study under a famous Rabbi, he claimed he was God, many people thought he was crazy or demon possessed, and he was executed like a criminal. In our day and age where only good things in life constitute being blessed, it would seem that Jesus was anything but.

It’s only by faith that we can grasp the God reveals his character on the cross. On the cross, God subverted everything we intuitively understand about power. ‘Of all the places to search for God, the last place most people would think to look is the gallows.’ Instead of demanding power for himself and presenting himself as a God who ‘… could knock heads and straighten people out when they got out of line…,’ God, in Christ, laid down his power and died for us.