The Secret Message of Jesus

I just finished this book from Brian McLaren (you can find it here). It's a great read. Like most of the other stuff that I have been drawn to, this book talks about the social aspects of the gospel. It has been my experience that Christians (primarily, me) have often missed this point of the message of Jesus. We are so caught up in the 'more important' issue of 'going to heaven when we die' that we forget that we are supposed to be doing the Lord's work here and now. More often than not, the current world situation is not even on the radar for most of us. A lot of my brothers and sisters are too 'caught up' in the idea of the supposed 'rapture' that they completely neglect doing 'good works' while here. And let me assure you, by 'good works', I'm not referring to doing something to gain any type of favour from god. I am not god's employee looking for a pay raise. I'm talking about most of us seem 'so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good', to use a popular saying. It goes back to balance. The church (at least in America) is out of balance. Some are only concerned with 'heaven' and some are only concerned with 'earth'. I recently spoke with a friend of mine and told him my feelings regarding the social context of the gospel. He told me that he sees too much of that where he's at and doesn't see enough care for the people of god. So, again, the church is out of balance.

Along this line, McLaren makes the point that the Jesus and his message have become domesticated by the church. I completely agree. No longer does Jesus or his message challenge and 'go against the grain' of society as it seemed to do in the gospels. It seemed that every thing Jesus said or did pissed someone off. But today, Jesus is nothing more than a person trying to give us some sort of moral teaching -- and some would even say that it might not be very good! But the Jesus we read in the gospels is a revolutionary. His life and message, his vocation, challenged the status quo at every turn. He went against the norms. He turned everything upside down. We just don't see that in today's churches (for the most part).

McLaren also makes the statement that, if Jesus was here today, he would not use the phrase 'kingdom of god'. I agree and disagree. As far as my disagreement goes -- Jesus would come to Israel and Jerusalem (for he is the Messiah) and they still anticipate the kingdom of god and use that terminology. However, if Jesus came to America in the beginning stages of the 21st century, at the end of the modern era and in the beginning of the post-modern era, I agree that he would use a different phrase. McLaren gives some good examples for us to use in expressing this idea; this revolutionary secret. Some of my favorites are (in no particular order): the network of god; the conspiracy of god; the community of god; the story of God; and the tribe of god. McLaren expounds on each of these phrases and shows how they could help in our conversations with people. For example, when explaining the 'tribe of god', he wrote:
[In] a world of increasing warfare and genocide, God is creating a barrier-breaking tribe that welcomes, appreciates, and links all tribes. This inclusive tribe isn't an in-group that makes other tribes into out-groups; rather, it's a "come on in" group that seeks to help all tribes maintain their unique identity and heritage while being invited into a tribe of tribes who live together in mutual respect, harmony, and love -- because God is the universal tribal chief who created and loves all tribes.

Other highlights include the topic of using the term 'justice' instead of 'righteousness' because of the religious baggage that word brings to the conversations (And because, a lot of times, in the context it is used, that is a better translation. Further, in other languages, like Spanish for example, 'justice' is the only equivalent for the Greek term.); violence and what that means for the people who are advancing the kingdom of peace; how to better understand St Paul as someone who would not have repeated what Jesus did, but, in keeping with the program, built upon it and tackled issues he faced with the secret message of Jesus as his blueprint; etc. I think the book is best summed up by this statement:
What if Jesus' secret message reveals a secret plan? What if he didn't come to start a new religion -- but rather came to start a political, social, religious, artistic, economic, intellectual, and spiritual revolution that would give birth to a new world?

And this is at the beginning of the book! The rest of the book is about answering these questions and dozens more. And he isn't alone on his journey. He quotes from some great people, including: Dr Martin Luther King Jr, N. T. Wright and C. S. Lewis, just to name a few.

I feel that this book could be read by any and all, those who follow Jesus and those who don't. There are some great reviews over at Amazon that do a far better job than I. Simply put, this book is a life changer. It is a book that I will be reading again (and again). This book, along with N.T. Wright's Simply Christian, should be read by all who profess to be in the family of YHWH. If you would like a special treat, you can go here and download a PDF version of a special chapter that was in an early edition that they felt would best be served by providing it to all. It is on the prayer of the kingdom or the Lord's Prayer.

May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.



tracey said…
Is it really a "secret" message that Jesus gives us? And if it is "secret" does that not sound off some warning bells? I have not read the book....maybe I will check it out! What do you think was the overall message the writer was telling the reader? What IS the gospel and what does it tell you to do?

just some thoughts..
Odysseus said…
Hey Tracey,

First of all, thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I really appreciate it.

Second, great questions!

Concerning the 'secret' message: I guess it could be better to state the secret aspect(s) of the message of Jesus. McLaren points to a number of places where Jesus skirted issues, not answered questions directly, met in secret, told people not to tell anyone what had happened or what they experienced, and so forth.

He also brings about how the message of the Kingdom is counter to just about everything we see in the world. For example, the kingdom sometimes fails. Jesus was crucified. The apostles were killed (save St John). In all aspects of the systems of the world, the kingdom 'fails' at almost every turn. But, suggests McLaren, maybe that's the way it has to be.

Concerning 'warning bells': Not really. Secret is not understood as something cloak and dagger. That is, behind the scenes and only a select few, with the right credentials, can 'get in'. Again, I think it's more about the parts of the kingdom message that we have 'forgotten'.

Concerning the 'overall message': I think that the summary of the book is about the 'other side' of the 'gospel'. That is, the social aspects that so many in the church today don't seem to see. This includes, but not limited to, treating women as equals, treating children and the elderly with respect, a concern for social justice, and ecological concerns.

Concerning the definition of the 'gospel': Great question! I think this is exactly what the book is trying to refocus. Like I stated in the blog, the church (at least in the West) has focused on what it deemed as the 'more important' part of the gospel instead of the more balanced view of the historic church. That is, Jesus answered the Jewish equivalent of this question this way: 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.'


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