This book is titled The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing Us the Way To Live Right In A World Gone Wrong, and takes a closer look at several things that Jesus did during his earthly ministry that were considered culturally rude or politically incorrect. Leonard Sweet’s aim is to draw attention to Jesus’ purpose in doing these particular things, and how we can practically apply that to our own lives, and as it says in Romans 1:16, continue to be “unashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation, to everyone who believes”.
The book talks about the way Jesus spit in a man’s eye to heal him, told stories that didn’t make sense, spent too much time talking to little kids, and hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, and other social pariahs. Each chapter focuses on a different “bad habit”, and then tries to explain why they are not only good, but why we should do them too.
Look. I get it. I get where Sweet is trying to go with this, and I get that he’s trying to encourage people—particularly the younger generation—to be unashamed and set apart and live differently, even when the rest of the world says not to. But his message falls flat. It isn’t because it’s difficult to understand, or dry as a bone, or pretentious or flowery. It’s because quality was sacrificed over quantity, and there is very little actual Biblical content. There are precious few scriptural references to back up his assertions, and this is dangerous. As a strong Christian, I can come to this with my sound doctrine and agree with what he says because I already know it’s true. But without my own knowledge of the Bible and the acts of Jesus, I would have no way of discerning what is Sweet’s personal opinion, and what is God-inspired scripture.
All of that aside, however, this book just feels very thrown together. Sweet jumps from metaphor to metaphor like he’s playing leapfrog, with barely a paragraph between each one, and just when you think you’re tracking and keeping up with his train of thought, bam! The chapter ends, along with the topic at hand and my interest.
I am just not a fan of Sweet’s style. I understand his goal is to make the Bible and certain principles easier to understand, but as a college-age person reading this book, it feels watered down and condescending. I don’t see the need for “fresh metaphors and contemporary language” to “reframe [Jesus] for a twenty-first century world”, as he puts it in the introduction. His goal is to be relevant and authentic, but I don’t know that he really understands what that means. Being authentic means NOT changing the truth of what you believe or who you are, simply to reach your target audience. It means standing up for what’s right, and genuinely loving and caring about people. If they see that that’s your heart, and not being a chameleon and in doing so manipulating them, then they won’t care what you look like or how you word things. Then, and only then, will you be authentic, and Leonard Sweet needs to realize this.
I don’t wish to speak harshly about Mr. Sweet, but I cannot say that I enjoyed his book, for stylistic and theological reasons, nor do I feel comfortable recommending it to anyone.
*Full disclosure: Tyndale Publishing very kindly provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. But no worries! This does not affect my opinion in any way. Cheers!*