Summary of Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge

“Art reflects the heart of the artist.”

  • “You can learn a lot about an artist by the work he leaves behind… The personality of the artist leaks through their work. God included. He reveals himself through nature, as the Scriptures testify (cf. John 1:3)” (19).
  • The earth is broken, yes. Yet the beauty of the earth, as creation groans for the day of its restoration (see Romans 8:18-22), still astounds us. Anything good, true, and beautiful in this world proclaims the glory of God.

“The heart of the artist is revealed in their work” (62).

The personality of Jesus

  • “Reading the Gospels without the personality of Jesus is like watching television with the sound turned off” (14).
  • We often limit to just having a two-dimensional personality: loving and compassionate. But when we limit Jesus’ personality to these, love often turns sickly sweet and compassion soft and limp (15).
  • When we lose the personality of Jesus, we lose Jesus.
  • Jesus is “the author of life” who personally “sustains all things” (Acts 3:15; Heb 1:3), reveals Himself through His artwork – all of creation.

The humanity of Jesus

  • The humanity of Jesus is reflected in nature – most of all – you and me!
  • “The ravages of sin, neglect, abuse, and a thousand addictions have left us all a shadow of what we were meant to be. Jesus is humanity in its truest form. His favourite title for himself was the Son of Man. Not of God – of man” (48).
  • A true knowledge of Jesus is our greatest need and our greatest happiness. The flip side is that to be mistaken about him is the saddest mistake of all.

“So, if you don’t know Jesus as a person, know his remarkable personality – playful, cunning, fierce, impatient with all that is religious, kind, creative, irreverent, funny – you have been cheated” (12).

Playful & Beautiful

  • The risen Lord, in the “afterglow of the greatest triumph of the greatest battle in the history of the cosmos” (3), reveals Himself as playful, nonchalant, funny.
  • “God himself knows how and when to be playful” (7).
  • What do dashing chipmunks, wrestling polar-bear cubs, spinner dolphins, all have in common? So many things in nature in which God intended for us to laugh… After all – it was God who gave us a sense of humour (23).
  • Jesus is beautiful in every way. His ability to be playful, cunning, generous, fierce – always true to Himself – without any one quality dominating – as is so often the cases in our personalities – is so beautiful, rich, brilliant, but never blinding, never overbearing. Yes, Jesus is a beautiful outlaw.

Fierce intention

  • Nature bears witness to the fierceness of God. An African lion closing in on its prey, a silverback gorilla confronting an intruder, a mother brown bear when her cubs are threatened.
  • Jesus is fierce, intentional, and commanding, yet never reckless. Think about His explosive episode in the temple and His commanding voice in exorcisms. And best of all, think about Christ-crucified descending into hell to take back the keys from Satan. Recall his deep anger at the death of Lazarus (John 11:33). He is a man on a mission – a man on fire.

Extravagant Generosity

  • Nature itself is abundantly generous. Think about the waves of the ocean, the sand on the shore, the delicate & intricate work of tiny creatures. It all reflects an artist with meticulous detail. Think about sunshine. The daily radiance showered upon us. Every single day, over so much of the planet. What immense goodness. Warming the earth, raising the crops in the field by silent resurrection, unfolding flowers, causing birds to break out in song with the dawning of each day. It bathes everything else in light, which then enables us to behold and enjoy, to live and work and explore. What a gift sunlight is – coming and going… What does sunshine tell us about the personality of Jesus? Think about our senses. Watermelon, blue cheese, Tabasco, coffee, chocolate.
  • Jesus is lavishly generous. 1st miracle at Cana was 908 bottles of the finest wine. John said this miracle “revealed His glory.”

Disruptive honesty & scandalous freedom

  • Remember. Every time you are watching Jesus, you are watching Love in action.
  • Whereas we often are not honest with each other (because it will cost us with possible tension, backlash, and rejection), Jesus always told the truth in the best way possible.
  • Disruptive honesty is exactly what we need and more difficult to come by than a winning lottery ticket.
  • The risks Jesus is willing to take with his reputation are simply stunning. He doesn’t seem to care. Or better, Jesus cares very deeply about the right things. Jesus continually breaks the Sabbath laws. Jesus has a wild freedom born out of a profound holiness.


  • Jesus knew full well that he was a hunted man operating behind enemy lines.
  • But the best use Jesus makes of his cunning brilliance is with the hearts he is trying to win over.
  • You will appreciate the mastery of Jesus only to the degree that you understand the minefield he walks. He is advancing against the prince of darkness in a bid for the human heart. The whole situation is booby-trapped. Satan already has the upper hand – he took our hearts captive when we fell, back in Eden.
  • We don’t appreciate Jesus cunning because we insist on clinging to our naive view of the world. We just want life to be easy; we just want life to be good. We don’t want to deal with evil, so we pretend we don’t have to. We don’t want to navigate sin either. We prefer our coffeehouse chitchat, our Twitter-level engagement. We play at church. It’s as though we think our mission and our context is something other than what it was for Jesus. Even though he said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).

Humble & True

  • “Humility hardly begins to describe the incarnation. That’s like saying it would be a humble thing for you to become a goldfish, to live in the bowl, in a fishy world, trying to help those other fishies become something more like Phoenixes. It boggles the mind” (108).
  • “God – who is in all places at all times – has to get from one place to another like a guy who can’t even come up with bus fare. The beauty of this is enough to make me weep” (110).
  • The humility of Jesus in including us in His greatest work. Jesus and “his disciples” go hand in hand. Right here from the start, he acts like it’s not all about him. He shares the stage, shares the spotlight. He shares his glory: “I have given them the glory that you gave me” (John 17:22). He even shares his suffering.
  • Jesus, whose name is “Faithful and True” (Rev 19:11), shows the same personality to everyone. He is utterly free from the fear of man. No little white lies to be liked by others. Not one moment of His life is contrived. He never plays the audience, never kowtows to the opposition, never takes his cue from the circus around him. He is simply being himself.

Loving Jesus

  • Our 1st purpose on earth is to love Jesus with all that is within us. Therefore, the best thing we can do at this point is simply begin to love Jesus by making a practice of loving him. When we encounter anything that is good, true, and beautiful in this world – we have an opportunity to simply say – “Jesus, I love you.” The more you practice this, the richer it becomes. Make your life a love-affair with Jesus. When you smell coffee, when you see children play, when you feel the warmth of the sun or the gentle breeze, when someone is kind or smiles at you, say, “Jesus, I love you. I love you. I love you.”
  • Being in love with God is not optional. It’s the first and most important command of all.
  • Church attendance can give people the false impression of having Christ, while it inoculates them from experiencing the real thing. This is the poison of bad religion.

Life with Jesus

  • Our 2nd purpose on earth is to share our daily life with Jesus; to let Him be Himself with us. On the beach, at supper, along the road – just as the disciples did.
  • We need to renounce every limit we have placed on Jesus in our lives and give Jesus – the real Jesus, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever – full permission to be Himself with us.
  • We should expect Jesus anytime, anywhere, everywhere. Jesus is infinitely creative. Just let him be himself with you. There is so much more with Jesus.

“Listen to how someone prays – it will reveal what they really think about Jesus. Does he sound near, or does the prayer make him seem far away, up above the sky somewhere? Does it sound as though Jesus might be someone we are bothering with our requests, someone with far more important things to do? Does he have a sense of humour, or is he always serious? Is it formal, and religious, or “Good morning, Papa”? Do they even sound like they know him? Really, listen to their prayers. Listen to your own” (159).

Jesus’ Life in Us

  • Our 3rd purpose in life is to allow Jesus’ life to fill ours and express itself through ours.
  • Jesus is not merely a model – that would be unreachable, crushing. He is the means by which God is restoring our humanity.
  • Jesus’ life is yours for the asking. The secret of Christianity is the life of Christ in you. Allowing His life to become your life. His revolution is not self-transformation, but his transformation of us, from the inside out, as we receive his life and allow him to live through us. Vine, branch. Anything else is madness.
  • If you are not drawing your life from Jesus, it means you are trying to draw it from some other source. I’ll guarantee you that it’s not working.
  • Christ in you is your only hope of transformation.
  • Your brokenness and your sin are not something you overcome so that you can walk with God. No. They are the occasions for you to cry out for the life of God in you to rescue you. Not God outside you, up in the sky somewhere. Christ in you, your only hope of glory.
  • Jesus has no intention of letting you become whole apart from his moment-to-moment presence and life within you.

“Lord Jesus, I give my life to you today, to live your life in me.”

“Jesus in me, help me with this.”

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