The term manifesto can be a frightening one to encounter, particularly in the title of a book available at your local Christian bookstore. At best, it sounds like a stuffy read, at worst a reworking of the communist bible. Yet, after only a few pages in, it becomes quickly apparent why Len Sweet and Frank Viola used such a big, important and even scary-sounding word for their book.
In the intro, the authors write:
“The Lord Jesus Christ is far beyond what most of us could ever dream or imagine. His greatness, His beauty, and His splendor are unknown to many Christians today. This is why a fresh look at Him -a fresh Christology-is so vital. To put it in a sentence: To faithfully represent Christ in our time requires re-presenting Him. And that’s what we are attempting to do in this book.”
From there, Viola and Sweet do just that – re-present Jesus in a fresh or “third” way in hopes of removing all of the baggage of programs, doctrine, beliefs and ideologies with which we as Christians and as the church have so often replaced and blurred Jesus.
“When the people of God get a sighting of their incomparable Lord,” they write. “and when the world encounters His unfathomable love, irresistible beauty, and overwhelming glory–every idol will be forced to the ground. The clouds of doubt will part from our eyes, and Jesus Christ will displace everything. But first, the world and the church must see Christ.”
Quotes like this one abound in the 179-page book which I can imagine was as convicting and perspective-altering for the authors to write at it is to read. One of the most moving interactions with the book is in chapter 3 when the authors imagine how a biography of our lives would read if God wrote it. “The Christian life begins with Christ, continues with Christ, and ends with Christ,” they write in introducing the biography. “Simply put, the history of Jesus is both the experience and the destiny of every believer.”
Viola and Sweet also produce several short and to the point ah-ha moments, something they are both known for doing in 140 characters or less on the social networking platform Twitter. One of my favorites is when they talk about how we “goddify…even good things like family, justice, helping the poor, health and nutrition, Christian fellowship, service, etc.” In the same chapter, the authors write about the significance of the town of Bethany and the hospitality Jesus was shown there that he was unable to find anywhere else. I don’t believe in all my years of church I’ve ever heard anyone talk about the significance of Bethany quite like that.
In fact, outside of Philip Yancey’s book The Jesus I Never Knew, I’m not sure I’ve read a book about Jesus quite so moving, convicting or perspective-correcting as this one was. Maybe it’s the place I’m at in my own life and walk, but I think what Viola and Sweet have to share is worthy of the title of manifesto and should be a must-read for folks everywhere who claim to be a follower of Christ.