I served, a few years back, on a jury panel and it was an extremely exciting experience. The process was efficient, the lawyers were dynamic, and the judge was pretty funny. And, to top it all off, former controversial Dodger Milton Bradley was among the potential jurors. He wasn’t selected, but he and the other mentioned factors made my one and a half week service an enjoyable one. I might be in the minority, but I wouldn’t mind being one of the twelve again.
The case: an attempted murder trial.
I was one of two pastors selected to serve, so naturally (or supernaturally) we connected well. We talked ministry during our breaks and we shared some of the things our respective churches were doing for the community. For some reason, however, our ministry conversations became competitive in nature, as if we were trying to one up each other on who was doing more for the Kingdom.
And then our already short connection became even shorter.
I simply remarked that it seems Christians are more known for what we’re against than what we’re for. My spiritual brother from another mother retorted, “Well, the closer we get to the end of the world and the more this world acts in opposition to God, the more we ARE going to be known for the things we’re against.”
I smiled. I shrugged. And we never talked again.
Although, in many ways, I see where pastor number two was coming from, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of arrogance flying off of his tongue. You know what I’m talking about…the “I’m-saved-and-they’re-not-attitude”…with nose high in the air. He seemed certain that the sole way of Christ was to oppose everything not Christian, rather than express the same love toward others that God showed the entirety of humanity when He sent Jesus. In fact, some of the most arrogant people I know wear the garb of Christianity. We forget, many times, that Jesus didn’t just come to save us from sin and direct us into heaven. Jesus also came to show us how to be human among other human relationships. He showed us how to love. He taught us how to forgive. Jesus showed us how to embrace those who don’t necessarily believe what we believe. Yes, Jesus revealed truth, unfortunately, in our quest to be theologically sound,
we’d rather die over doctrines than build authentic inclusive community that looks to explore the realities of Jesus.
Hugh Halter, in his new book “Flesh,” said, “Those doctrines are important … but not central. They can help us know Jesus, but they can also hinder us from knowing Him. Jesus is what is to be central, and He is the person people are really looking for.”
This is ultimately why Jesus came. He didn’t come to convert people. He came to rescue His family. Jesus came to restore what was broken when the original sin was committed. He came to break down the barrier between us and God that sin created. Unfortunately, we build this wall back up every time we choose to view people as prizes we win, rather than people to love.
In other words, Jesus came to show who He was for.
Hugh Halter does a great job at painting this picture in the book; a picture of godly love, rather than religious condemnation. Hugh uses stories from his own life where he engages with the “non-believing” world and shows them a love that transcends religion. The stories Hugh uses, much like those in his previous books, are far from candy coated. The stories Hugh shares are a definite reflection of him meeting the incarnate God and him wanting to show others what the incarnation looks like in their own lives. They’re raw. They’re real. They’re really good.
And, also familiar to avid Hugh Halter readers, are the reflection question at the end of each chapter. “Flesh” isn’t simply a book you read through to eventually place on the shelf under its dust collecting grave. It’s a book meant to stir up thoughts and action steps that’ll get you closer to Jesus. You can’t help but pause after every chapter asking yourself “how can I experience God today and help others do the same?”
Hugh goes on to say, “Christians often make it sound like Jesus came only to die for sin and then make converts, grow a religion called Christianity, and make more converts. But God never wanted converts, church attenders, prisoners, or parishioners. He wanted His family back.”
“Flesh” is a great read for both believers and non-believers. It challenges the religious quo with the possibility of offending many Christians and it’s encouraging even for the person with the hardest of hearts toward religion.
Go get it!