1. What is so “safe” about the images of Jesus prevalent in our culture right now?
He is generally safe because he likes and dislikes all the things and people we do. He reflects us, because we like us. We are most comfortable with our own values and interests, and when we make Jesus in our own image, we make sure he shares those values and interests.
2. How about the biblical Jesus? What’s the most unsafe thing about Him?
It’s hard to narrow down on just one thing. I think if I had to pinpoint it, it’s that he called everyone and everything to radically adjust their orbits so that he was at the center. “Take up your cross.” “Deny yourself.” “First shall be last.” “Lose your life to find it.” “Repent!” Etc.
Jesus was not safe because his demands typically included abandoning whatever we held as most precious (our idols) in order that he might be most precious to us. And he promised trouble for those who did. That’s another danger on top of the danger! So he calls the disciples to give up jobs and leave families to follow him around into a life that eventually got them martyred.
But he’s the Son of God, so you know, totally worth it.
3. Each chapter in your book is about a specific characteristic of the biblical Jesus. Was there any one that was more personally meaingful to you? Why?
A couple of them stand out for different reasons.
I really like the chapter “Jesus the King,” because I think the gospel of the kingdom was the essence of Jesus’ message and yet the evangelical church is by and large ignorant of what the kingdom is and what living in it means. So there was a lot at stake in that chapter and in that exploration.
I also really like the “Jesus the Redeemer” chapter because it’s a little different. I began my writing career as a novelist, and while I remain unpublished in the world of fiction, I still love stories and plan to keep plugging away there. And the “Redeemer” chapter is formatted with stories, reflecting the way Jesus redeems our personal and collective stories. And it tells in really short fashion the narrative story of Jesus’ ancestry. That sort of thing just really resonates with me, and I think it will others.
4. In the book, you go through a littany of “safe Jesus’s.” What’s the most outrageous depiction of Jesus you’ve ever seen or heard?
Well, the little figurines of Jesus riding a Harley Davidson or something are really weird. Last week at one point on the Amazon.com Christology chart, the number one book was about using the principles of Jesus to make millions of dollars. That was pretty stupid.
5. The title of your blog is “The Gospel-Driven Church.” What is the gospel in one sentence?
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
John 3:16 works too. 🙂