Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough
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A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Abandon dead, dry, rule-keeping and embrace the promise of being truly known and deeply loved.
Jefferson Bethke burst into the cultural conversation in 2012 with a passionate, provocative poem titled “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” The 4-minute video literally became an overnight sensation, with 7 million YouTube views in its first 48 hours (and 23+ million in a year). The message blew up on social-media, triggering an avalanche of responses running the gamut from encouraged to enraged.
In Jesus > Religion, Bethke unpacks similar contrasts that he drew in the poem—highlighting the difference between teeth gritting and grace, law and love, performance and peace, despair and hope. With refreshing candor he delves into the motivation behind his message, beginning with the unvarnished tale of his own plunge from the pinnacle of a works-based, fake-smile existence that sapped his strength and led him down a path of destructive behavior.
Bethke is quick to acknowledge that he’s not a pastor or theologian, but simply a regular, twenty-something who cried out for a life greater than the one for which he had settled. Along his journey, Bethke discovered the real Jesus, who beckoned him beyond the props of false religion.
priest in heaven. Finally they’d ask, “Who is your sacrifice?” to which the early Christians would respond that they no longer offered sacrifices because Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all.3 That is what Jesus meant when he said, “I have not come to abolish [the Law or the Prophets] but to fulfill them.” That truth changes someone from dead, man-made religion to a vibrant relationship with Jesus and his body. THE MEANING BEHIND Back in my dorm room, I was trying to put all these thoughts down
Jesus? CHAPTER 3 FUNDIES, FAKES, AND OTHER SO-CALLED CHRISTIANS I was watching TV the other day when I came across really angry people on the news talking about God’s judgment and wrath. They held up signs that read, “God Hates Fags.” Confused and angry, I turned the channel. On the next channel was one of those music award shows. After I watched a few acceptance speeches, I noticed each artist was thanking God for the award. I thought, Hmm, never knew any of them to be the religious
hard to serve his father while another son asks for his inheritance and says, “Peace out,” spending the money on parties and traveling till he’s poor and literally eating with the pigs. You may have heard the church version of this story, which focuses on the younger son living his Jersey Shore lifestyle, fist-pumping his way to debauchery, when he realizes it isn’t working. Ashamed and broke, he reasons that his father would never love him as a son but that he could at least get a job as a
help but follow him. Since he gave up his life for you, you can’t help but give yours back to him. That is the scandal of grace. I fully believe that as a Christian you can take advantage of grace, but when you’ve truly tasted it, you never will. When you’ve experienced the joy and life of Christ in you, then nothing is as satisfying anymore. It’s not that you want to use his grace to do all the things you used to love. Those things no longer are attractive to you, and you love him now! There
swimming in a river. It was spring, and the glacier runoff had made the river pretty dangerous. Nonetheless one of the guys jumped in, got caught in the current, and was taken to the dangerous part of the rapids. One of his friends on the shore was a lifeguard, and all the other friends looked at him to do something. He just stood there, though, not moving, just staring at his friend. The others began to panic and yell at him and tell him to go save his friend! Still nothing. They looked out into