Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus, John Eldredge, FaithWorks (2011)
“That is what I want to do here — I want to open up the possibilities of experiencing Jesus.” 1 That pretty much sums up the mission and effect of Beautiful Outlaw.
In order to open up this Jesus experience for anyone and everyone, I’ll borrow a statement from Mary Baker Eddy to unlock this beautiful outlaw for a universal audience: “The divinity of the Christ was made manifest in the humanity of Jesus.” 2
What Eldredge loves so much about Jesus is universal. It’s about what Jesus’s actions represent for all humanity: freedom from material chains, sin, disease, and death! Transcending religious lines, the book jabs at conventional Christianity and the “solemn Sabbath day” Jesus. Its laid-back warmth serves as a catalyst to stop thinking about Jesus in that strait jacket, and start feeling him in yourself and everyone you meet.
Not only does Beautiful Outlaw break Jesus out of the typical church setting; it parades him all over town with people on the streets where he belongs. Also, the book is intended for an audience with preconceptions about Jesus and, possibly, trauma about their relationship with him. Which is why it’s lovingly written in an informal, by-the-fire-with-your-favorite-uncle style.
My favorite parts of the book are when Eldredge gets gushy about Jesus. “So, the best thing you can do at this point is simply begin to love Jesus. Just love him…just begin to make a practice of loving Jesus.” 3 He then explains that in different parts of his day he’ll just say out loud, “I love you.” Not only can you tell that this man sincerely means it, but his real motive in writing this book is to get us to feel the same way.
Eldredge says our life purpose can be identified by loving Jesus “with all our strength, sharing our daily life with him, and allowing his life to…heal and express itself through ours.” 4. This, of course, takes practice. But Jesus is made so accessible through this book — for those with or without a Christian background — that it really makes us want to follow Jesus down the straight and narrow no matter what the circumstances.
The real accomplishment of “Beautiful Outlaw” is that it makes readers feel like they’re meeting Jesus for the first time. The reader really feels like a disciple right at the feet of the Master.
Through fresh perspectives on Mary Magdalene’s crashing the private dinner at the Pharisee’s house; Jesus’ verbal parrying with the sassy Samaritan woman by the well; and Jesus whipping corruption out of the temple with a real bull-whip, the reader starts to see why “it takes a beautiful heart to recognize the beauty in a scandalous act, and to love it as [Jesus] does.” 5
The Jesus given us here is a rebellious revolutionary who knows that he’s defying the laws of physics, religion, and society through his radical acts. This gives readers a Jesus they not only can emulate, but want to emulate. It’s not a lofty, cloud-covered Jesus, but a man masterfully laying down the brickwork for overturning oppressive systems everywhere.
Here’s the key point that sums up the entire book: If it makes you feel alive, it’s Jesus. The salvation that Jesus came to give us requires rebelling against the world. It should make our hearts leap. Then we can experience life in all of its — sometimes edgy — spiritual beauty and glory.
By Michael Morgan
Topics: Christ Jesus