The Trouble with Jesus

Review of Joseph Stowell, The Trouble with Jesus , Moody Publishers, 2004

The book starts off by describing a prayer breakfast that took place in 2001 in Chicago after 9/11. By all accounts Americans had turned back to God and were rediscovering their spiritual heritage. Initially encouraged by this, Stowell soon realised that this was a pseudo spiritual awakening. It was Christianity without Jesus – His name wasn’t mentioned once! Later he goes on to mention that when America with its president sang “A mighty Fortress is our God” on the Friday after the attack on the Twin Towers, verse 2 was omitted. That’s the verse that says, “Were not the right man on our side / The Man of God’s own choosing. / Dost ask who that might be? / Christ Jesus it is He.” Once again, Jesus is excluded from the mix, in an attempt to be politically correct, tolerant and ecumenical.

About this book, Anne Graham Lotz wrote, [It] “is a ‘must read’ if you call yourself a Christian” and Chuck Colson says, “Joe Stowell [provides] wise, practical principles for making Jesus known in our challenging day and in our jaded culture.”

Stowell, in different chapters writes about Speaking up for Jesus; Showing up for Jesus; Reaching out for Jesus; Loving for Jesus; and Living for Jesus. Using the metaphors of ‘Salting the World’ and ‘Lighting the Night,’ he gives us insights into how we should live and behave before a watching world. In the chapter on Showing up for Jesus, I particularly liked his contrast between two Greek words for ‘good.’ One is Agathos and the other is Kalos. “Agathos generally refers to good in the sense of being morally upright. A respectable honest person who lives within biblical boundaries is Agathos…” Kalos on the other hand “is goodness in the sense of doing good things… In the context of [being] ‘light’ Kalos is doing things consistent with what Jesus would do.” Being Good, Agathos, is expected of disciples of Jesus, but Doing Good, Kalos, is what makes a difference and will get noticed, Stowell claims!

In order to really get the point across, he contrasts the two in an emphatic way. He writes,

“Agathos is about rules… Kalos is about relationships.
Agathos behaves… Kalos blesses others.
Agathos does what is right… Kalos forgives those who don’t.
Agathos tithes… Kalos gives above the tithe to those in need with no thought of receiving in return.
Agathos may not do what others at the office do… Kalos keeps a keen eye out at the office for opportunities to express the love of Jesus to fellow workers.”

He says, “You know it’s working when someone asks, ‘I’ve been watching your life. What is it that you have that I don’t ever seem to be able to find?’ And then you can say, ‘Let me tell you about Jesus.”

Lee Strobel says about the book, “In this passionate, persuasive, and practical book, Joe Stowell offers a powerful antidote to the all-religions-are-equal attitude. The answer is Jesus. Read this inspiring book and learn fresh ways to bring others to Him.” ‘The Trouble With Jesus’ is about ways in which we can make Jesus front and centre, living that out in real, tangible, everyday ways, and for that reason, I recommend the book to you.

Henry Craig