Jefferson Bethke’s book “Jesus > Religion: Why He Is So Much Better Than Trying Harder, Doing More, and Being Good Enough” presents a challenge to the pharisaic rule that has overshadowed much of American Christianity and comes back to the core of who Jesus really is. The book highlights how far away we’ve gotten from the true essence of what it means to be followers of Christ, and Bethke doesn’t just skim the surface of the issues; he digs into them, bringing out the parts of scripture that apply.
If I had to sum up the entire book in one sentence it would be: Your works don’t get you into heaven.
People try to hard to “earn” their way into heaven, and we as Christians have categorized ourselves separately from the world under the slot called “Christian,” where we have our own clothes, our own music, our own movies, our own books, etc.
We don’t need to mix with the world because we’ve got our little subculture, and we don’t want to be seen as the “problematic child”. This is one of the issues Bethke addresses in his book. We’ve separated ourselves, so why bother reaching out to the lost when we have our perfect little comfort zone right here? We have built up walls of perfection around ourselves and simply criticize everyone else who isn’t doing exactly what we are doing.
“Every generation has their non negotiables,” explains Bethke. “My generation’s [non negotiables] seem to be social justice. We won’t listen to someone who speaks it but doesn’t live it. Also, the internet is second nature to us so that drastically changes how we communicate.”
“My generation just wants one thing from the church,” continued Bethke. “Authenticity.”
Religion might preach grace, but another thing they practice
Tend to ridicule God’s people, they did it to John The Baptist
They can’t fix their problems, and so they just mask it
Not realizing religion’s like spraying perfume on a casket
See the problem with religion, is it never gets to the core
It’s just behavior modification, like a long list of chores
Like let’s dress up the outside make it look nice and neat
But it’s funny that’s what they use to do to mummies while the corpse rots underneath
In each chapter, Bethke points out the difference between “religion” and Jesus. Religion does one thing, but Jesus does the opposite.
I think these differences are very important for Christians and non-Christians to contemplate. The differences point out hypocrisies that some religious folk carry out, the same hypocrisies that turn non-Christians away from Jesus. There is one way that some Christians act, and that is not the way that Jesus would have acted. There may be moments reading this book where you think, “Oh, I do that or I believe that” and you realize that those actions and beliefs are not bringing you any closer to God.
To non-christians, to be christian means you must not drink, not curse, hate gays, and not have tattoos. In his book, Bethke explains that Christianity is so much more than just those things, it’s about a relationship with Jesus. “Jesus > Religion” brings up the argument that we must shed the religious structure we’ve been hiding under and get back to Jesus. It’s not about what we do, it’s about what He’s already done.
Bethke’s book has to be one of the best books I’ve read in a long time when it comes to religion. Even if you’re not a Christian, this book is a great way to get to know more about who Jesus is and what true Christianity is.
After every chapter in the book there are “Study Questions” which can be used as lesson material for your youth group, or even just between a few friends. I highly recommend this book.
In case you’ve been living under a rock this past year, Jeff’s Spoken word poem that inspired the book can be found below: