I have checked out the preview of Brian McLaren’s book “The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything” in Amazon.com. His candour, willingness to learn and being open to new ways of understanding Jesus’ words in their socio-political context and thoughtfulness in presenting his thoughts to the general audience in such a way that is accessible are refreshing. I can relate to his experiences of having wondered about Jesus’ words and then later on saw something enlightening in his words some years later. I think that is the wonder of Jesus’ parables – instead of systematic theology, parables have the ability to invite readers and hearers to think for themselves the implications and apply the meanings to their everyday lives in a fresh and relevant way, which theology and theoretical explanations can never achieve.
I also find some of the reviews helpful in giving me a better idea of what the whole book is about. I note that one particular reviewer found Chapter 10 “Secret agents of the kingdom” inspiring and moving. He wrote:
“I loved chapter 10. It’s called “Secret Agents of the Kingdom”. McLaren says, “Too often, when the story of the movement of Jesus is told, most of the focus is on the religious professionals. But what if their role is at best minor? What if the real difference is made in the world not by us preachers, but by those who endure our preaching, those who quietly live out the secret message of the kingdom of God in their daily, workaday likes in the laboratory, classroom, office, cockpit, parliament, kitchen, market, factory, and neighborhood?” This chapter is positively inspirational. I admit I wiped a couple of tears.”
(From book reviewer Adam Ellis)
I find this observation true too – every one of us can take encouragement to know that we can make a difference in our own capacities. We will be like Jesus ourselves – hidden from the public most of the time and yet making a powerful impact in and for the kingdom of God.
I came across this part of the preview of “The secret message of Jesus” in which Brian McLaren wrote:
“Similarly, wouldn’t there be a certain ironic justice if Jesus’ own kinsmen, the Jewish people, led the way in understanding and practising the core teaching of one of their own prophets who has too often been hijacked by other interests and ideologies? Or if Buddhists, Hindus, and even former atheists and agnostics came from the “east and west and north and south” and began to enjoy the feast of the kingdom in ways that those bearing the name Christian have not?”
(From “The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything” by Brian McLaren)
One reviewer in Amazon.com had summarised his book as being about the kingdom of God, and my understanding is that Jesus’ message is about manifesting the kingdom of God within and among people, that is not of this world (system) marked by competition, greed, violence, envy and discrimination, but rather is characterised by love, grace, forgiveness, acceptance and peace. So this kingdom of God is available for everyone to participate in, regardless of whether they call themselves christians, buddhists, muslims, jews, atheists or agnostics. It is unfortunate that Jesus and his message of the kingdom of God have been hijacked by religious institutions and politicians today that water down and distort his messages.