To my great surprise, Big Billy slowly cracked a smile and started laughing. "F—, you wanna drink?" he asked.
From that moment on Billy became my neighbor.
Fast-forward. It may sound like a fairy tale ending to Godfather IV, but I swear it's true. Billy's family became a part of our faith community, and they are dear friends to this day.
Now is a good time to define sacrilege or sacrilegious as I'll be using the terms in this book. To commit sacrilege is to de-sacredize what is deemed to be sacred. Sacred is defined as "consecrated to or belonging to a god or deity, holy." In the Christian sense, to commit sacrilege means to disregard, disrespect, or be irreverent toward those things that have traditionally been considered holy, venerated, or dedicated as sacred. It's tipping holy cows.
At face value this may sound bad, wrong, disrespectful, and insensitive, like Roseanne Barr butchering "The Star-Spangled Banner." In actuality, as I'll show, de-sacredizing what should be de-sacredized is not only good, it begins to move us toward the undercurrent of the real person and Good News of Jesus. Sacrilege is about removing religion from our faith. It's about securing the integrity of what is most important. It's about chipping away at people's false assumptions about who Jesus is and what following him is all about.
In truth, when done correctly, sacrilege will allow you to relax spiritually, exhale, and begin to come alive, becoming more real in your faith and in your way of being with others.
I'm not interested in controversy for its own sake. I have never enjoyed theological debate, but I can't help but speak passionately about the kind of truth that really sets ordinary men free, like it did me. I will not ask you to be profane, to desecrate, or to defile. These three words refer to a deliberate attempt to belittle, hurt, or dehumanize someone or their beliefs. Such sentiments are often steeped in angry rebellion or adolescent arrogance. They are tantamount to trashing, abusing, polluting, or destroying those things that are genuinely holy and important to God and to people.
Jesus did none of this. He was, however, without question, the most appropriately sacrilegious revolutionary of all time, and his call for anyone who follows is to be like him.
The world needs a tidal wave of sacrilegious apprentices.
Jesus the Iconoclast
Jesus was the true iconoclast. Icon means image or idol. Clast means to break. Every word Jesus said and act he did smashed the spiritual, religious, traditional, and pop idols of his day. False kingdoms were exposed, false motives were laid open, false teachings were confronted, and every person he touched came away confused, intrigued, perplexed, or changed. He was not liked by everyone, but he was loved by the right people—the people with eyes to see and ears to hear fresh truth.
Whether he was challenging people's view of Scripture, hanging with prostitutes and half-breeds, letting his disciples eat without ceremonially washing their hands, providing wine to guests of a wedding bash who had already partied too much, or touching lepers, Jesus went against almost every religious norm and won the hearts of the heathen. His ability to de-sacredize the sacred (when doing so was important to the purposes of God) magnetized people to him, and his followers were expected and empowered to do the same.
The real Jesus was the ultimate sacrilegious leader. Therefore, adopting a sacrilegious approach to faith may be just what the doctor ordered, particularly in a world that is ailing to see a real Jesus again. Just as Jesus turned over the junk in the temple (see Matt. 21:12-13), so we have to begin turning over the junk of our religious training. We need to get to the purity of the gospel again. This book is about recovering, or maybe discovering for the first time, the Jesus you'd naturally and sincerely want to follow and invite others to follow as well.
When we picture people converting to Christianity, we probably envision a doctrine-heavy preacher imploring people to respond to the spoken word, walk the aisle to the altar, and receive Christ into their hearts. Although this is an experience many of us hold dear in our own conversion story, we must realize that the first people that followed Jesus weren't following doctrine, theology, or the spoken word. They were following the incarnate Word, the man, Jesus the person. They didn't know anything about the cross, sin, the need for a substitutionary payment, or all the doctrine we've added on since he lived among us. They started with him alone and learned the rest along the way.
Jesus the Likable
Remember this key piece of historical truth: common people loved Jesus! What's more, they liked him.