The Secret Message of Jesus

July 30, 2006

Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything
Brian D McLaren

Book Review

One of the key elements of OneKirk that we hope will shape its future, and indeed the Church of Scotland as a whole, is inclusivity: the broad welcome that Christ exhibited to those whom everyone else wanted to ignore. The extraordinary ability to gather in the lost that Jesus spoke and preached about is a message of gracious inclusiveness—there is no body who is outside the realm of God’s grace.

In his latest book, The Secret Message of Jesus, the prolific American writer Brian McLaren draws on many modern theologians from Dallas Willard to Walter Wink, N.T. Wright and John Howard Yoder to Tony Campolo. In an attractively written and engaging book, McLaren argues that for too long the “secret message” of Jesus has been lost amidst the cultural issues of the day.

By exploring Jesus’ use of parable as a form of teaching that by its nature separated those who “had ears to hear” from those who could not move from their exclusive view of God, McLaren uncovers how Jesus preached a radical and inclusive message that turned the thinking of the day upside down. But one had to have “ears to hear” what Jesus was saying.

Jesus wasn’t preaching a message of domineering power or aggressive conquest. The Kingdom of God that Jesus tells us about is a Kingdom of compassion and kindness, of healing and peace, of empowerment for the weak, of sanity in an insane world, and of freedom.

This Kingdom of God should not be confused with a “heavenly” Kingdom “up there”, somewhere. This is the Kingdom of here and now, this is the Kingdom for which we pray daily: “on earth as it is in heaven”.

While nothing of what McLaren is saying is new, his readable exploration draws you in. As one reads, exclamations of “Yes, of course!” to the points made are frequent. This book makes so much sense of the “big picture” of Jesus’ message.

It can be easy for us to slip into tried and tested ways of thinking about Jesus’ message: to try to tame the radical edge, to soften the blow of the Sermon on the Mount. We can be guilty of domesticating Jesus.

What of the inclusiveness of Christ? McLaren notes that inclusivity itself has a sharp edge. It is not simply about being nice to people, even those we disagree with. There are limits.

Using the example of a hospital, McLaren describes the inclusivity that welcomes all who are sick, the doctors, nurses and family members. And yet, a hospital cannot inclusively welcome the child-snatcher or the poisoner. Those who would seek to destroy inclusivity must be resisted.

To jump for a moment to C.S. Lewis, just as Aslan was not a tame lion, so the secret message of Jesus is not tame, but rather wild, infectious and joyous for those with “ears to hear”.


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