“Grace is unconditionally given, intimacy must be relentlessly pursued.” The subtitle caught my attention. Perhaps this is because so many who profess to follow Jesus seem to have no real knowledge of who Jesus is. Knowledge requires intimacy, at least in the sense of closeness. In his book, The One Jesus Loves, Robert Crosby explains how a person can continually draw closer to Christ through six circles of relationship he calls, “the Circles of Christ.” Crosby argues that without understanding of and movement through these rings discipleship is incomplete. This book proposes a biblical model for discipleship that is more relational in its design than many other models.
The Apostles’ Creed helps us with right beliefs. The Lord’s Prayer assists us with focused intercessions. The Ten Commandments define clear morals in the eyes of God. The Circles of Christ might help display more vivid intimacies with God. (20)
The book is very accessible and assumes little to know knowledge of the biblical story. The chapters are short making it possible to read the as if it were a devotional, which is probably a good idea given its content. The author weaves his own humor in and through the story as traces the steps of people connected to Jesus through the the Circles of Christ, being:
- the Crowds – those who came to see who Jesus was and what he was doing
- theFive Thousand – those who came closer for feeding and healing
- the Seventy – those who committed to working and serving on behalf of Jesus
- the Twelve – those who left all to follow him
- the Three – those who accept the glory and the suffering that comes with knowing Jesus
- the One – the one who desired to know Jesus at the deepest level
Each circle comprises several chapters, which are well summarized by a single thought at the end of the chapter. Crosby does a good job of highlighting the benefits of participating at each level, and the importance of not skipping levels in our relationship with Jesus. Moving too quickly may cheapen the process, but failing to move will stagnate the relationship.
All in all I think his idea of concentric circles of relationally moving toward Christ provide a useful tool for the discipleship process. Two issues I have with the book are the nature of the circles and the identity of the “one whom Jesus loved.”
First, the reality of the circles is that a person can only choose to go through so many circles before they have to be invited into deeper circles of intimacy. Anyone can enter at the crowd level. Those a bit pushier or more relationally inclined can enter at the 5,000 level. However, when we get to the 70 level – and definitely at the 12, the 3 and the 1 level – we must be invited in. That is the nature of relationships. I know Jesus would never reject anyone, but I would hate to see someone try to earn their way into intimacy with Jesus rather than accept the already given invitation.
Second, and not nearly as important as the first, is the case Crosby makes for the identity of the One. It is commonly accepted that John is the author of the Gospel of John and is therefore the “one whom Jesus loved.” Although I more readily accept Dr. Ben Witherington III’s hypothesis that Lazarus is the author of the Gospel of John, and therefore the “one whom Jesus loved,” I’m not sure why it mattered. Personally, I would have left that section out.
A fun read, with some readily applicable content. Might make for a good small group study or spiritual formation focus group. Enjoy.
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