Monday, March 31

Jesus is Better than You Imagined by Jonathan Merrit

Everyone has an idea of what Jesus is like. Within Evangelical Christianity you’ll get a similar answer from most people. Most of them make Jesus sound great (though unfortunately some groups manage to make Him sound awful). But we still have our own ideas, and sometimes those are shaped through negative experiences. But…what if Jesus is better than you imagine? What if He is better than His followers make Him out to be? In his newest book, Jonathan Martin shares many stories from his own life and how he came to be surprised at where he found Jesus.

Ever since I read A Faith of Our Own a couple of years ago, I’ve been reading Jonathan’s writing. I regularly check his articles for Religion News Service and have been anticipating this book. I tore through it as soon as I received it.

This is a deeply personal book, much more so than I anticipated. Jonathan’s stories are moving, as he lays down parts of his life before us. They range across many emotions, from the terrifying encounter with armed bandits in Haiti to the serene peacefulness in a monastery.

Perhaps the strongest chapter is one titled, “A Thread Called Grace,” where Jonathan tells the heartbreaking story of being sexually abused as a child by an older, neighboring boy. This led him to feeling isolated and insecure, to the point of contemplating suicide when he was ten years old. He then goes on to share how these experiences shaped his understanding of his own sexuality.

“The human inclination is to conceal when we feel naked or exposed or vulnerable. I wanted to hide from the pain of sexual abuse and the confusion I felt, so my mask rarely came off. I lived behind it.” Page 89

A chapter that particularly struck me was, “A Tableless Home,” where Jonathan visits the capital of Nepal. In worshipping at Church’s there, Jonathan comes to realize how much Christians ‘criticize’ church, whether the music selections, the layout of the pews, or the pace of transitions on the screen displaying the lyrics. We are consuming church like we would consume a movie, instead of participating in worship. Jonathan also addresses feelings of being let down by God. We put on a false face, even for other Christians. But we do not need to do this. Jesus accepts our messiness, and wants our true selves, not the façade we show to others.

Jonathan Merrit continues to be a strong writer in the Christian community, able to weave strong storytelling with a message filled with truth and hope. Not all of the stories are easy to read, but Jonathan brings them back to Jesus. No matter our circumstances, Jesus is better than you imagined. He is certainly better than I imagine.

4.5/5 Stars

I received this book free from Faith Words, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

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