“You might think that you already know all about Jesus and the Gospels. That he is nice, tame, and predictable – the kind of guy you’d meet for coffee and a chat after a Sunday morning church service. But I want to show you a side of Jesus that we have been too scared to embrace, the Jesus who sends tables and chairs crashing over because he is gripped by a passion to interrupt injustice. The Jesus who parties late at night with the wrong crowd because he is so radically welcoming of those at the bottom of the heap. The Jesus who turns water into wine because that’s how he sees you and anyone on the edges – as water longing to become wine.”
I’ve been gifted the opportunity to preview Craig Greenfield’s new book ‘Subversive Jesus‘ before the release date in May. Over the next few weeks I will be discussing sections of the book and relating them to our life.
Craig Greenfield used to work with ‘Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor‘ and that’s where I first heard of him. He currently lives in Cambodia with his family developing ‘Alongsiders‘. I appreciate his honesty and authenticity that show through his blog posts and his books. His heart for justice and the poor beats throughout his writing and this book is no different.
In the first chapter, entitled ‘Jesus’, Craig shares how his privileged life was confronted by injustice . This led him to deconstruct his initial view of Jesus and challenged him to encounter the real Jesus.
“As the cracks in my flimsy religion began to appear, I knew I had to get out of my privileged bubble and find a place where I could read the Scriptures from another perspective. I needed Jesus, the real Jesus.”
Reflecting on my own life, after intentionally choosing to follow Jesus when I was eighteen, I hit a crossroad when I was twenty-one. I looked at the church I knew; safe, affluent, predictable and aiming for ‘souls to be saved’. But then I looked at the brokenness in the world, the darkness, the inequality and I wondered if God cared about that. I couldn’t continue on the road I was walking, my faith needed to mean something, surely Jesus wanted to save more than souls. Re-reading the gospels and hearing about Jesus followers who were standing up to injustice inspired me to take Jesus more seriously. He was a refugee. He was homeless. He shared the love of God. He spent his time with the marginalised, the poor, the nobodies. He served his followers. He confronted the religious leaders. He got killed for upsetting ‘the system’. He rose from the dead to defeat death and declare that he is the true King. From then on I’ve been attempting to partner with God in seeing his Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
The more I read about the culture of the time of Jesus, my eyes are opened at how political and powerful the gospels are. True justice is at the heart of God and can’t be separated from him. As followers of Jesus, seeking justice in our world should be our heartbeat.
“He is not necessarily a good citizen. Jesus is wildly and prophetically subversive, because beyond our affluent comfortable suburbs, not all is right. And something has to change.”
This chapter nicely sets up the rest of the book. Craig briefly shares about how he and his wife, Nay, were led to move into the slums of Cambodia. During their initial six years there, they deeply connected to the reality of the poor and were able to see Jesus transforming lives. Craig shares a number of stories from this time in his first book, Urban Halo (which is free through his website and you can also check out my review). After this season Craig and Nay felt called to move to Vancouver “to find out whether subversive Jesus and his upside-down kingdom would make sense not just in one of the poorest countries of the world but in one of the most affluent.”
Personally I’ve found the whole book challenging and convicting. It’s an accessible and rich read. I devoured the chapters but I’m excited to slowly unpack different sections as I share thoughts here. It will help to explain some decisions we have made as a family as we seek to follow Jesus. This doesn’t make for the most comfortable life but it is an adventure. I would take adventure over comfort any day.