I was sitting on my husband’s desk, swinging my short legs and discussing the upcoming weekend trip to Montana. In the swivel chair, he sorted the mail. A padded manila envelope labeled, “To the minister” revealed a free book.
Neither of us were all that excited. New books addressed “to the minister” are most often books with an ax to grind. But when I flipped it over, the title, “The Jesus Style” caught my attention, and I decided to take it with me to the retreat.
I was not disappointed.
The author, Gayle D. Erwin, has a simple thesis. The only way to the win the world for Christ is to do it like Jesus. In other words, we have to imitate the way Jesus loved and served others. This seems painfully obvious. What else does WWJD mean? Yet when Erwin gets down to brass tacks his conclusions sting.
I frequently laughed as I read and had to turn down the radio to read snippets in the car. For example, when talking about how he would have chosen someone suave as a forerunner, he comments, “Jesus obviously didn’t do it my way. Instead, he used a raving, rough-hewn man who dressed inappropriately for a minister and was committed to organic food.” Or when trying to explain the horror and shame of the cross, he paraphrases apologetically, “Can you hear us singing, “At the electric chair, at the electric chair where I first saw the light.” Or, “There’s room in the gas chamber for you?” Or, Take up your firing squad and follow me?”.
Erwin reminds us of things we are committed to in theological terms but neglect when the rubber meets the road. For example, this quote on how we would behave if we were really slaves to Christ.
“A slave should have no title that raises him above that lowly level and definitely no title that raises him above others. A slave should have no status symbols except the scars that come from hard work. You would not expect a slave to have a parking space more accessible than his masters. A slave would not have an office larger than others or more ornately decorated in order to show his position. A slave would not wear clothing that intimidated others or impressed them in any way except as being their servant…A slave would not try to use his “power” to protect his position of “first.”
Probably the most poignant of the many short chapters was the one on humility. Erwin defines humility as a life without hypocrisy-a life in which we are as real and transparent as the “Great I AM.” He reminds us that rather than becoming more aloof as his ministry gained steam, Jesus became increasingly intimate with his disciples. Furthermore, Erwin says this is what it means to “walk in the light.” We know our failures and faults and feel no need to hide them or ourselves from God or our brothers and sisters. Instead without pride we all walk together growing in grace and knowledge.
Each point in the book is tied back to evangelizing like Jesus. Can you imagine an evangelist who showed up in shorts and flip-flops-in other words a slave who did not dress to put herself above the master? Can you imagine one who was humble, confessing her shortcomings to her student? Who freely admits that becoming a disciple of Christ (taking up our cross and following Him) is more about opening oneself up to humiliation, suffering and injustice than it is a quick ticket to heaven? Or who never manipulates an argument or an emotion but gives people the dignity and respect that God does by allowing them to say no? As painful as it seems, that would be evangelizing like Jesus.
If you can’t guess, I really like this book. The chapters are short and suitable for a daily devotional. Or alternately like me you can devour it in a weekend; just be sure and choose a place where you can both laugh like a loon and mull over how you might be less like Jesus than you first imagined.
An audio copy of the book can be downloaded for free at http://www.servant.org