What Does “Re-Jesus” Mean?!

I just finished reading Re-Jesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church by Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch again (I read it a few years back). The book compares the way of Jesus and the religion of Christianity. The authors want to recover the centrality of the person of Jesus in defining who we are and what we do (both as individual Christ-followers and as the “church”). The challenge is that the way that Jesus set for us to follow is inherently subversive against all attempts to control, and therefore institutionalize. A continual return to Jesus is essential for the movement that wishes to call itself by his name! This book was exciting and challenging for me to re-read. It helped me to want to re-commit myself to learning to walk in the way of Jesus.

In order to follow Jesus, you have to move beyond belief to actually trying to emulate him, become a “little Jesus”. The authors state, “But Jesus is still calling us to come and join him in a far more reckless and exciting adventure than that of mere church attendance. When allowed to be as he appears in the pages of Scripture, Jesus will not lead us to hatred, violence, greed, excess, earthly power or material wealth. Instead, he will call us to a genuinely biblical and existential faith that believes in him, not simply believing in belief, as in many expressions of evangelicalism.” (p.11)

“And so any attempt to reJesus the church must also recover a real sense of the radical and revolutionary nature of what it means to follow Jesus in the current Western context. To be free in Jesus must somehow mean that the idols of our time come under some serious questioning. For instance, to be free in Jesus surely will mean liberation from the shackles of a predominant and omnipresent middle-class consumerism that weighs heavily on us.” (p.11)

Here are some more quotes from the book that will give you a sense of the message:

  • “It must be called subversive by all that is called civilized. It is what Ellul called “antireligion.” Jesus undermines any status quo that is not built on the all-encompassing demands of the kingdom, and this must call into question much of our religious codes, institutions, and behavior.” (p. 12)
  • “It appears that a good church upbringing will do many marvelous things for you, but one of the unfortunate things it also does is convince you that Jesus is to be worshipped but not followed.” (p.17)
  • “The difficulty for the church today is not in encouraging people to ask what Jesus would do, but in getting them to break out of their domesticated and sanitized ideas about Jesus in order to answer that question (what would Jesus do?). Jesus was a wild man. He was a threat to the security of the religious establishment. Even his storytelling, so often characterized by the church today as warm morality tales, was dangerous and subversive and mysterious. If your answer to the question “what would Jesus do?” is that he would be conventional, safe, respectable and refined, then we suspect you didn’t find that answer in the Gospels.” (p.19-20)
  • “Nonetheless, part of the process to reJesus the church will involve a dismantling of its much-loved temple theology. While Jesus embodies the fact that the Trinity is both sent and sending, his followers very often seem to prefer a deity who reveals himself in sacred buildings, liturgies, and sacramental practices. So-called temple theology locates God as a withdrawn deity calling recalcitrants back to his temple/church/cathedral to be reunited with him. But an encounter with the Jesus of the Gospels flies in the face of this idea.” (p.27)
  • “He is antireligious, offering his followers direct access to the Father, forgiveness in his name, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to be reJesused is to come to the recognition that the church as the New Testament defines it is not a religious institution but rather a dynamic community of believers who participate in the way of Jesus and his work in this world.” (p.29)
  • “Jesus is suggesting that rather than running around drawing lines of demarcation between those who are in the community of Christ and those who are not, we are simply to bless all who participate with us in the work of Jesus. This is how robust Jesus’ view of the kingdom was. It couldn’t be contained within borders. It was a living thing, a wild thing, and it was bursting out everywhere. It is one of our greatest mistakes to equate the church with the kingdom of God. The kingdom is much broader than the church – it is cosmic in scope. The church is perhaps the primary agent of the kingdom but must not be equated fully with it. We need to be able to see the kingdom activity wherever it expresses itself and join with God in it. Jesus shows us how to see God working in the strangest of places.” (p.30)
  • “If we reJesus the church, we will lead it toward a greater respect for the unbeliever, a greater grace for those who, though they don’t attend church services, are nonetheless marked by God’s image. It will lead to a greater respect for people in general.” (p.34)

The authors’ project reminds me of one of my favorite writers, Soren Kierkegaard. I have been so challenged by his writings.

He said, “My mission is to introduce Christianity into Christendom.” He also said, “Unlike the admirer who stands simply aloof, the follower of Christ strives to be what he admires. Without this essential condition all attempts to be a Christian are fruitless.” One last Soren quote is, “We possess Christ’s truth only by imitating him, not by speculating about him.” Here are some more quotes from the ReJesus book:

  • “We’ve heard too many sermons about how to be better citizens. Too much preaching is concerned wiht the fostering of a capitulation to the mores and values of a post-Christian empire rather than a call to allow our imaginations to be overtaken by Jesus and focused on treasures in heaven.” (p.48)
  • “… a living relationship with the Lord of the universe is a risky, disturbing, and demanding experience. We never get the better of him, and it is a whole lot easier, and less costly, to think than to do. It is not good enough that we just follow his teachings or a religious code developed in his wake. Discipleship requires a direct and unmediated relationship with the Lord, and the loss of this immediacy is catastrophic to the movement that claims his name.” (p.51)
  • “In the New Testatment, Jesus does not disciple people by generating information, developing programs, or implementing plans. Rather, Jesus’ discipleship always involves a deeply personal process of being drawn into becoming more like the image, or form, of Jesus.” (p.54)
  • “At the beginning of this new century, we have never needed so desperately to rediscover the original genius of the Christian experience and to allow it to strip away all the unnecessary and cumbersome paraphernalia of Christendom.” (p.68)

The message of the authors also reminds me of Jaques Ellul’s book, The Subversion of Christianity. This book rocked my world when I read it. Here’s a sample quote just for fun, “The gospel and the first church were never hostile to women nor treated them as minors. … When Christianity became a power or authority, this worked against women. A strange perversion, yet fully understandable when we allow that women represent precisely the most innovative elements in Christianity: grace, love, charity, a concern for living creatures, nonviolence, an interest in little things, the hope of new beginnings – the very elements that Christianity was setting aside in favor of glory and success.”

  • ReJesus, the refounding of the church, means departing from a blind, slavish allegiance to religious rules inherited from our parents and forebears. It means walking into the turmoil of chaos and daring to trust that at the end of the path will not be bedlam but a rediscovery of the way of Jesus, a rediscovery of the original rules that we can own ourselves with greater conviction and authenticity. Jesus, as our founder, is our guide on this path.” (p.83)
  • “And why wouldn’t he be? Even his friends were somewhat frightened by him. When Jesus asks them what people are saying about him, they reply that some think he is a resurrected John the Baptist, or even Elijah. They’re not saying they think he is a real softy, a big, gorgeous guru of love and goodwill. They think he’s a resurrected wild man, for that’s surely what both John and Elijah were when alive. Our point is that to reJesus the church, we need to go back to the daring, radical, strange, wonderful, inexplicable, unstoppable, marvelous, unsettling, disturbing, caring, powerful God-Man. The communities around us are crying out for him. The church needs to find itself in league with this Jesus, staring at him in amazement and saying, as Peter did, with a trembling voice, “What kind of man is this?” Even the wind and waves obey him. Even the wild demons obey him. Even the Pharisees quake at the thought of what he might unleash if left to his own devices.” (p.111)
  • “When we associate this idea to the Christological redefinition of monotheism (as we must), then our task in the world is to be Jesus’ agents in every sphere or domain of society. The lordship of Jesus extends to our sexuality, our political life, our economic existence, our family, our play, and everything in between. There must be no limitation to the claim that Jesus makes over all of life.” (p.123)
  • “If we wish to become like him, we must learn to actively participate in Jesus, actively applying him and his teachings to our lives. We cannot be disinterested spectators when it comes to Jesus. In fact, in the encounters described in the New Testament, the desire of people to remain neutral observers is in a real sense the real sin.” (p.150)
  • “For many suburban, middle-class churches, niceness is the supreme expression of discipleship. But any cursory reading of the Gospels will serve to remind you that Jesus wasn’t all that nice. He was good. He was loving. He was compassionate. But, he wasn’t always nice. The church must abandon its preference for good-manners piety and adopt again the kingdom values as taught by Jesus.” (p.184)

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