What Have We Handcuffed to Jesus?
I like all my books. Really I do. Periodically, someone will ask me what book that I’ve written is my favorite. And, it is kind of like asking which of my kids is my favorite. After all, each was birthed through a fairly intense labor process (writing doesn’t come easily to me), each is unique, and each has something important to offer the world. But, while I could never choose a favorite child (my three actual children are amazing by the way), one of my books does hold a pretty special place in my heart. And, that one is (drumroll please)… Speaking of Jesus.
A few months back my good friend Rick Lawrence, of Group Publishing, approached me about making Speaking of Jesus more accessible for students. I didn’t require a lot of convincing. His idea was great: take the key concepts of Simply Jesus and break them down into 50 digestible articles that give stories, ideas, and even strategies to discover true freedom and joy in “speaking of Jesus”. And, the thing is, it’s not just for teens. Pretty good for us grown-ups too.
To give you a taste, here’s Article #9: Take the Cuffs Off
Pretend you’re handcuffed to something. The cuffs are tight on your wrists, and the links of chain lace through the bars of a rocking chair. You’d better get used to rocking in that chair, because that’s all you’ll be able to do until those cuffs come off. Try taking a shower while you’re sitting in a rocking chair. Or getting on a school bus. Or playing soccer.
It’s not just nearly impossible—if you tried to do any of these things while handcuffed to your rocking chair, you’d become a nuisance. People would raise their eyebrows and sigh as you clunked and scraped and hauled your way up to them. “Hi, guys,” you’d pant, breathless. “What’s up?” They’d look at each other, pretending not to see your rocking chair. And then they’d have to decide whether or not to mention your predicament, given the obvious embarrassment of it.
Likewise, when we think it’s our “job” to tell “lost” people that they can be “saved” by Jesus, we’re handcuffing ourselves to a rocking chair. The gospel—the good news—is a person, not a sales presentation. But we have often handcuffed ourselves to a “gospel rocking chair” of traditions, movements, and organizations. We’ve even handcuffed the simple good news represented by the person of Jesus to a particular society and government. To millions of people around the world, Jesus Christ is synonymous with Western culture and America.
The problem isn’t that these attachments are or aren’t good; the problem is that these things are not the gospel. Do we really want to try to redefine and reinterpret Jesus and then give him to the world? Of course not. When we handcuff things to Jesus, we are convoluting the message. The power of Jesus’ life and death come from a simple truth: He’s the exact representation of his Father. Know Jesus and you know God. Do we really want to add to that?
I don’t want to redefine salvation or the gospel or even Christianity—I suppose I want to undefine them. I want to strip away the thousands of years of graffiti painted onto the gospel that have turned it into a reasonable code of doctrines. The gospel is not an idea. It is not a belief. It is not a favorite verse. The gospel does not live in your church. It can’t be written down in a simple message, and it is not rote prayer. The gospel is not a what. It is not a how. The gospel is a Who. The gospel is literally the good news of Jesus. Jesus is the gospel.
You can purchase Speaking of Jesus-Student Edition here.