When you think of Jesus, what comes to mind? Do you think of Him walking on water, healing lepers, or what about dying on a cross?
Those images are true to the story of Jesus, but at Outlaw Church, we also see Him as someone furthering the gospel on the fringes of society, the church, and the law. Think about it. Jesus was killed and given a criminal's death. The church saw Him as a radical and even King Herod tried to kill Him at birth. Jesus was not a criminal by any means, but when we say He was an Outlaw, that's how He was viewed. He furthered His ministry on the streets, not in a temple. He broke the laws of conventionality. The laws I’m referring to are more or less Christian laws developed by man, and that’s my point.
It's time we became Outlaw Christians, just like Jesus.
I define an outlaw Christian as someone who is no longer willing to hide their grief, scars, questions, doubt, or anger from God or from each other. It’s on those particularly taboo topics that we need to break the law. I’m not saying let’s break all the laws, as the Bible clearly states to obey the laws of the land. The laws that I isolated- they are really, really hurting us and they’re damaging our lives. They result in shame, secrecy, and loneliness. And they’re not good for us.
As Outlaw Christians, we need to be open and honest about who we are. We need to acknowledge our sins and not hide them secretly. We do need to turn from our sins and let God do his job and clean us up, but we need to stop hiding. We need to stop giving in to our sins and then condemning others for their sins. The laws of the church are not always the rules of Jesus.
If there is one Bible verse that sums up Outlaw Church and it’s the core verse our whole ministry is based on: it’s Romans 6:14. ‘For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.’
What does that mean, under grace? It means Jesus' blood covers ALL sins.
Wait, did I say ALL sins? Yes, I certainly did. I’m not going to get into what sin is or call out specific ones, but let’s just say Jesus’ death covered ALL our sins. Jesus died as the ultimate sacrifice so that if we believe He is Lord and accept Him as our savior, we’ll be saved from death, saved from our sins, and saved from eternal separation from God.
So, you may ask how His death makes Him an Outlaw? Let’s discuss a few instances of what made Him so controversial. Why did they want to kill him in the first place?
Jesus hung around on the edges of society in the poor areas coming into the city every now and again. He was seen somewhat as a drifter. He taught, performed miracles, and just generally upset the religious ministers and priests of His time.
Jesus knew the priests and religious people of the day saw him as dangerous. He knew they saw him as a radical and someone disrupting their rules and ways of doing things. Jesus was a social revolutionary. Jesus was breaking certain laws- religious laws. Jesus, He was helping people on the Sabbath. According to the law, that was not permitted, but Jesus questioned it: is this law that we’re following life-giving? Is it spiritually fruitful for human beings? In that incident, the answer Jesus was getting to was, well, Sabbath rest is important but not if someone is in trouble. We need to be helping them. Jesus called us to question. These instances prove Jesus was an outlaw. The church saw him as such, the rulers saw him as such, and the elite saw him as such. Do you know who didn’t? Those who followed him. Those who embraced His love and accepted His death as their salvation.
Jesus was an outlaw before birth. He died an outlaw. He died beside of two criminals not priests.
‘And when they came to the place called The Skull (or calvary), there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left.’ – Luke 23:33 (NASB)
I want you to imagine Jesus, walking to the cross, the burden of splintered wood upon his back. His flesh torn to shreds. Every step taken He was mocked, spat upon, and cursed. Still, He died for the same people who tortured and killed Him. If He did that for those who didn’t love Him… just imagine. Imagine how much He loves you and me.
He died an Outlaw's death so we could live in eternity with Him. That is being an Outlaw Christian.
That is the truest love there is.