Jesus is often portrayed as meek and mild, but a thorough reading of the gospels reveals that the Son of God was anything but passive. Mark Galli, managing editor of Christianity Today and a former Presbyterian minister, takes a hard look at the real Jesus --- one whose actions, words and wisdom are anything but gumbylike.
In 17 short chapters, JESUS MEAN AND WILD walks readers the book of Mark, digging deep into bite-size portions of scripture. Galli writes:
"For those who truly want to know and love God as he is, the warm and friendly Jesus, although an attractive idea, is but an idol. And the fascist God will simply not do. To enjoy a full-orbed faith will require that our idea of God gain some unnerving texture, some dynamic energy, some subtlety and depth. It will require that we live into the love of God as manifested in the mean and wild Christ. This Jesus reveals not a one-dimensional, sentimental love --- a love that merely makes us feel good --- but a love capable of saving a desperate world."
Galli's writing is poised, thought-provoking, and at times tastes like Godiva. Not only does he manage to weave stories of himself and his experiences into the text, he also draws on a rich well of insights from theologians, writers and Christians from all ages who have displayed the mean and wild side of Christ. Stories of well-known believers such as Hudson Taylor and St. Francis of Assisi run alongside tales of saints scarcely heard of. The result is a compelling book that brings you deeper into the heart of God.
Tucked within the pages of this book, you'll find Galli exploring, explaining and tackling some of the pendulum swings of the modern church. He delicately raises hot-button issues and offers a balanced response to some of the more excessive trends in the church.
In his chapter "Love That Makes Enemies," he writes:
"To be sure, there is risk especially in loving the theologically or morally wayward. Out of mere sympathy, we may become tempted to compromise our values to be nice to them. But true love is robust. It includes compassion and confrontation, empathy and truth-telling, kindness and sternness. When we enter such relationships, we must enter them not with sentimentality but with full-orbed love. This takes not only compassion but courage. Yet it is that very combination that so often gets us in trouble."
Overall, JESUS MEAN AND WILD is one of the best books I've read this year. I had planned on a quick read, but instead I found myself savoring each chapter like fine chocolate --- enjoying a single piece a day in the hopes that the sweetness would last. Eventually the book came to a close, and I found myself wanting to read it again. With chapters short enough to read like a devotional, JESUS MEAN AND WILD is a book you won't want to miss --- and really, you can't afford to.
--- Reviewed by Margaret Feinberg (www.margaretfeinberg.com)