Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have teamed up to write Jesus Manifesto. Thanks to the good folks at Thomas Nelson for sending me a free copy to review.
Sweet and Viola have connected over their common concern to see people gain a fresh vision of the glory and majesty of Jesus. They desire to restore the supremacy and sovereignty of Jesus Christ, beginning with the body of Christ. From the introduction:
In the following pages, we hope to bring your vision and understanding of Jesus Christ into sharper focus. We hope to present our Lord to you in such a way that you cannot help but love Him, that you cannot help but fall at His feet and give Him your undying devotion—not out of guilt, duty, obligation, or fear, but because your heart has been captured by a glimpse of the greatest person this world has ever known, Jesus the Christ. Out of such love flows everything else.
I resonate with the authors’ objective. O that all who follow Christ would be captivated with a fresh vision of Jesus!
I am several days late in posting my review of this book because I have struggled with exactly what to say about it. There is much that I find beautiful, helpful, and necessary in this book. Yet I am also concerned by a recurring motif that keeps me from fully recommending this book. Sweet and Viola are greatly concerned about people who are focused on the blessings of Christ, cause of Christ, or being like Christ apart from living in the reality of Christ himself. And they should be concerned about this! None of these concerns amount to anything apart from the empowering presence of the risen Christ. Yet rather than healing this divide and allowing these concerns to flow out of our present experience with Christ, Sweet and Viola often use language that maintains this divide. They just emphasize the other side.
A passage representative of this occurs in the introduction. After presenting “Who do you say that I am?” as a (the?) crucial question posed by Jesus, the authors continue:
Unfortunately, “Who do you say that I am?” is no longer the only question. “What are you doing to bring in the kingdom of God?” is now an equally asked question, as is “What are you doing for justice?” and “In which cause are you engaged?” Or “What are you doing to evangelize the world?” and “To whom are you accountable?” and “What’s your gift?” And especially, “What kind of leader are you?”
Do Sweet and Viola really think that these are all unfortunate questions? Yes, apart from the presence of the person of Christ these questions fall short. They may even be destructive. But connected to the reality of the empowering presence of Jesus these questions become important, even essential. Jesus both invites us into radical intimacy with the triune God and sends us into His mission in the world (see John 17). We must live out both the relationship and the mission. To miss either one is to miss the whole thing.