taking the words of Jesus seriously




Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Red Letter Book Club. It is an excerpt from JimmySpencer’s book, “Love Without Agenda: Moving Our Spiritual Goalposts from Heaven and Hell to Wholeness.”

Religion has a bad reputation—and rightly so.

Religion controls.
Religion coerces.
Religion conquers.

People have done many horrible things in the name of religion.

But what is religion?

In my mind, religion is simply the way humans frame their existence. Religion is the way we explain to our children what it means to be human. Religion is what we look in the mirror and measure ourselves against. There are lots of religions in the world. There are lots of frames around our existence—each with their own take on humanity. Each with their own claims to fame. Some religions have spread and dominated our history while some remain smaller and less known.

There are also lots of ‘framers’ of life:

Lao Tzu

People who told us what ‘God’ thinks of people and what people should think of ‘God’

Muslims point to Mohammed.
Buddhists point to Siddhartha.
Taoist point to Lao Tzu.
Christians point to Jesus.

I am a follower of Jesus.
I pattern my humanity after Him.

I’m an old-schoolish orthodox Christian.
I believe that Jesus is God. I believe all the old stories in the Bible.

I believe that Jesus came not to form a system of belief, but to show what God and humanity is supposed to look like.

Jesus is The Whole Pattern…

The pattern of God
The pattern of humanity

If we want to be whole and mature human beings If we want to experience a life that is truly human.

We will follow the Pattern that Jesus lived
We will watch what Jesus shows us
We will hear what Jesus tells us

We will become people who move steadily toward reflecting the likeness and image that God intended for people—the likeness and image that Jesus lived.

That is what Christians are supposed to be doing. Practicing how to be a human—in the pattern of Jesus:

Of Nazareth
The Christ
The Son of God
The Prophet
The Sacrifice
The Wanderer

The lover of people
The doer of work

The man who spawned Christianity
The God who spent 33 years showing and telling us…

What God thought about us
What we should think about one another.

We should recognize that we don’t look back at Jesus thru our own perspectives alone. We have centuries of stories and voices of people who have re-framed things for us on occasion:

Francis of Assisi

All redefining and framing our Christian experience.
All redefining and framing our human experience.

And even modern folks who currently help people re-frame their humanity:


All of these men take the words of Jesus and frame what it means to be a Christian. They help people to explore what it means to be a good Christian, but really they are interpreting what it means to be a good human thru the eyes of Christianity’s founder, Jesus of Nazareth.

They ask us…have you seen Jesus in this way?

Christianity is essentially a collection of people who believe in the words and life of Jesus. They ascribe to Jesus’ take on what it means to be a human. Christians are people who pattern their lives after Jesus.

Simply put, they are His followers.

Most Christian books and religious books are written from a perspective that tries to prove certain things right. Everyone pulling and vying for a piece of our minds…

Imagine lots of kids in a sandbox:

There always seems to be that one kid who stands up and wants everyone to play their game of ‘army’, or who attempts to organize the whole sandbox to fit their image of what is fun and good. They want everyone to stop what they are doing and do A, B and C.

They command.
They coerce.

They set standards for who can and who can’t play in the sandbox. They ‘teach’ everyone how to get on the same page.

That is not this book.
That’s not me.

I’m the kid in the corner making a fort for my guys, a road for my beat up cars, and a forest complete with pine cones and twig ‘trees’.

I really want you to see my vision for my experience in the sandbox. I want you to play and have fun with me. I really hope you come to understand and appreciate my corner. I’ve found peace and joy in my experiences here in this corner of life.

Perhaps we could share the corner?
Because I have no interest in organizing the whole sandbox.

In fact, I wish that kid who kept yelling at everyone would someday just sit down and start building something instead of trying to get everyone to do what he wants…but until that day comes I will keep working on my fort and inviting any other curious kids to come and play.

Consider this book an invitation from one curious kid to another.

To experience humanity thru my eyes.
To experience Christianity thru my frame.

To experience what I’ve learned as I pattern my life after the Jesus Pattern…actually practicing the art of being Christian. I’ve found it’s both a personal and whole experience that loves everyone without agenda—and moment by moment— finds ways to change the world and ourselves one act of love at a time.

That is the story I am telling:

I hope it inspires you.
I hope it affirms you.
I hope it helps you walk a little lighter.

But if not—I hope you find something that does.

You can always count on me…
If you need to borrow some of my twig trees.

This post is an excerpt from Jimmy Spencer’s book, “Love Without Agenda: Moving Our Spiritual Goalposts from Heaven and Hell to Wholeness, ” currently featured on the Red Letter Book Club.

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