Cut any true Christian to their core and they bleed grace. I think this is exactly what Paul had in mind when he described that which is “of first importance” (1st Cor. 15:3). In Jonathan Merritt’s book Jesus is Better Than You Imagined it is grace that shines through his memoir-like work.
Jonathan’s background is quite similar to my own. We both grew up as PKs at baptist affiliated churches. Following college we both pursued graduate degrees in seminary. We both have church ministry as a vocation on our resume, we’re both writers, and we both have learned to deal with our pasts by hiding. Within these connection points are two pieces of the book that stood out to me.
1. Sin, abuse, hiding and shame, is something I’ve written about extensively, and in the most heart-wrenching chapter of the book Jonathan tells his story of similar themes. He says,
“In the end, shame steals the very thing it promises: meaningful, authentic connections with others. Pursuing a life of honesty means to reveal who I truly am and assert that my story belongs at the table.”
For many years my struggle to be real with myself, my friends and family, and God was what truly ate away at my life. I jeopardized close connections with others by choosing to present a version of myself that I knew wasn’t true on the inside.
As Jonathan can attest to, choosing to be honest is incredibly painful, and incredibly liberating at the same time. It tears down the wall built around your life, allowing God and His freedom to enter in.
2. Much-related to the theme of sin, hiding, and shame, is the veneer of exterior righteousness. As a PK I can relate to Jonathan’s close connection with a Christianity that must avoid the appearance of any kind of evil (KJV 1st Thess. 5:22). He says,
“Jesus is better than I imagined because He shatters my striving for sterility with a radical invitation to live free. Free from sinful patterns, but also free from moralism, free from legalism, and free from condemnation. Free to love the unlovable, to use your gifts to serve those in need, to share the great story of redemption through Christ with others.”
As the internet allows more and more of our lives to be on display the danger of faking it continues to rise. What being a follower of Christ gives allowance for is the freedom to live into a whole different kind of you, one that is welcomed and loved already.
Jonathan doesn’t forge into new territory theologically with this book, and I’m certain that wasn’t even his goal. What he accomplishes is presenting a Christianity that meets each of us in the darkness of our lives, and more than anything, that is the kind of book many people need to read.
(PS. Hope you like the new look on the blog. The design was made with mobile in mind, meaning the blog will function much better on phones and tablets than it did previously. The sharing buttons are now featured at the top of each post if you’d like to share this to your preferred social network.)