The Barbarian Way
Unleash the Untamed Faith Within
By Erwin Raphael McManus
Pages 5-7: “Strangely enough, though, some who come to Jesus Christ seem to immediately and fully embrace this barbarian way. They live their lives with every step moving forward and with every fiber of their being fighting for the heart of their King. Jesus Christ has become the all-consuming passion of their lives. They are not about religion or position. They have little patience for institutions or bureaucracies. Their lack of respect for tradition or ritual makes them seem uncivilized to those who love religion. When asked if they are Christians, their answer might surprisingly be no, they are passionate followers of Jesus Christ. They see Christianity as a world religion, in many ways no different from any other religious system. Whether Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, or Christianity, they’re not about religion; they’re about advancing the revolution Jesus started two thousand years ago.
“This is the simplicity of the barbarian way. If you are a follower of Christ, then you are called to fight for the heart of your King. It is a life fueled by passion–a passion for God and a passion for people. The psalmist tells us to delight ourselves in the Lord, and He will give us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37: 4). When Christianity becomes just another religion, it focuses on what God requires. Just to keep people in line, we build our own Christian civilization and then demand that everyone who believes in Jesus become a good citizen.
“It’s hard to imagine that Jesus would endure the agony of the Cross just to keep us in line. Jesus began a revolution to secure our freedom. The new covenant that He established puts its trust not in the law, but in the transforming power of God’s Spirit living within us. The revolution of the human heart would fuel the life and vitality of this movement. We would delight in God, and He would give us the desires of our hearts. With our hearts burning for God, we would move forward with the freedom to pursue the passions burning within us.”
Page 13: “The barbarian way is about love, intimacy, passion, and sacrifice. Barbarians love to live and live to love. For them God is life, and their mission is to reconnect humanity to Him. Their passion is that each of us might live in intimate communion with Him who died for us. The barbarian way is a path of both spirit and truth. The soul of the barbarian is made alive by the presence of Jesus.
“As John the Baptist reminded us, the evidence that Jesus is the Christ is that He baptizes us in both Spirit and fire. Barbarians are guided by the wind of God and ignited by the fire of God. The way of the barbarian can be found only by listening to the voice of the Spirit. The barbarian way can be known only by those who have the heart of God. The steps of the barbarian are guided by the footprints of Jesus. Barbarians see the invisible and hear the inaudible because their souls are alive to God.”
Page 15: “A barbarian invasion is taking place even right now. They are coming from the four corners of the earth and they are numbered among the unlikely. From the moment Jesus walked among us the invasion began. And just as with those who crossed paths with Him here on earth, those who are most religious will be most offended and indignant. Barbarians are not welcome among the civilized and are feared among the domesticated. The way of Jesus is far too savage for their sensibilities. The sacrifice of God’s Son, the way of the Cross, the call to die to ourselves, all lack the dignity of a refined faith.”
Pages 21-22: “Several things about John [the Baptist] stand out right away. He was an unusual dresser with strange eating habits. Just in case you’re uncertain, wearing clothes made of camel’s hair was not the height of fashion, even during the time of Jesus. We are told he ate locusts and wild honey. I suppose the wild honey was to help get the locusts down.
“He was clearly not a fan of the established religious leaders. His nickname for the Pharisees and Sadducees, who were the pinnacle of the religious elite, was ‘brood of vipers.’ Nope, that was not a term of endearment. And I think it’s important to note that his fire-and-brimstone message was entirely directed toward the religious, not the irreligious. He was a barbarian in the midst of civilization. And frankly the civilization made him sick. He had no patience for domesticated religionists who were drowning in their own self-righteousness.
“Oh, by the way, he had no formal education, no degrees. His occupation was prophet, and his mailing address was the wilderness. To say the very least, he was not the person whom anyone was expecting to prepare the way for the Messiah. John was the voice that proclaimed the coming of the Christ, and through his encounters with Jesus, we can rediscover the barbarian call.”
Pages 32-33: “So what is this good news? The refined and civilized version goes something like this: Jesus died and rose from the dead so that you can live a life of endless comfort, security, and indulgence. But really this is a bit too developed. Usually it’s more like this: if you’ll simply confess that you’re a sinner and believe in Jesus, you’ll be saved from the torment of eternal hellfire, then go to heaven when you die. Either case results in our domestication. One holds out for life to begin in eternity, and the other makes a mockery out of life.
“The call of Jesus is far more barbaric than either of these. It is a call to live in this world as citizens of an entirely different kingdom. In its primitive state the good news could never be separated from the invitation of Jesus to ‘come, follow Me.’ He never lied about the danger or cost associated with becoming His follower. He told them up front, ‘I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves’ (Matthew 10: 16).”
Page 53: “If you don’t like the idea of being an innovator, that’s fine. Just do whatever Jesus calls you to do the moment it is clear to you. Do not procrastinate; do not hesitate; do not deviate from whatever course of action He calls you to. But I want to warn you, the closer you walk with Christ, the greater the faith required. The more you trust Him, the more you’ll risk on His behalf. The more you love Him, the more you will love others. If you genuinely embrace His sacrifice, you will joyfully embrace a sacrificial life. Your expectations of Jesus will change as your intimacy with Him deepens. When you begin to follow passionately after Jesus, you will inadvertently find yourself innovating. After all, Jesus is transforming lives, writing history, creating the future, and unleashing the kingdom of God. If you plan to keep step with Jesus the Pioneer, you better expect some changes.”
Page 58: “Although John was confused about Jesus, Jesus was not confused about John. Jesus knew that everyone else was confused about John. John lacked religious pedigree, yet he clearly spoke with spiritual power. At the same time he didn’t look anything like a priest or a teacher of the law. To put it bluntly, John was just plain weird. Not what you would expect when you were looking for a spiritual leader. John’s faith was raw and untamed. There was nothing civilized about him.
“And Jesus seemed to be either mocking or rebuking them for expecting to find someone different. If you were looking for a reed swayed by the wind (someone easily molded by the expectations of the civilized) or a man dressed in fine clothes (someone who lives to impress the political or religious elite), you were looking in the wrong place. But if you went out to see a prophet, John was your man. And he was more than a prophet. He was the one whom God chose to prepare the way for the coming of His Son. Of all the men born of women–and that pretty much covers everybody but Adam–John was the greatest. Jesus, by the way, was born of God. The assumption was that for such a job, God would choose someone with polish and refinement.”
Page 59: “Jesus lived in a time when Judaism had been domesticated, institutionalized, and civilized; it was only a hollow shell of what God intended. John didn’t fit into the organized religion of his time because God didn’t fit either. Jesus Himself, the Messiah of Israel, remained an outsider even to his death.”
Pages 60-61: “Jesus was making clear that being a disciple was never intended to be the equivalent of being molded into a stereotype. Jesus and John were considered barbarians, even though they expressed themselves in different ways. But at the core they were the same. They lived and moved in the mystical. That is, they had a unique and transcendent connection to the Creator of the universe. Guided by the voice of God, they cared little how others perceived that. What was invisible to others was clear to them. Their lives could not be explained apart from God.
“While He walked among us, Jesus tried to explain this to us. He told us–as if we should understand without difficulty–that He spoke only what He heard the Father saying and did only what He saw the Father doing. He called His disciples to make this their pattern for living.”
Page 64: “Yet if we learn anything about God through John, it is that God has no problem with spiritual eccentrics. The point, of course, is not that God makes us mentally or emotionally imbalanced, but that He makes us passionately and spiritually unbalanced. God steers us in the direction of His kingdom, His purpose, His passions. His desire is not to conform us, but to transform us. Not to make us compliant, but to make us creative. His intent is never to domesticate us, but to liberate us.”
Pages 78-79: “The civilized build shelters and invite God to stay with them; barbarians move with God wherever He chooses to go. The civilized Christian has a routine; the barbarian disciple has a mission. The civilized believer knows the letter of the law; the barbarian disciple lives the spirit of the law. The religiously civilized love tradition; the barbarian spirit loves challenges. The civilized are satisfied with ritual; barbarians live and thrive in the mystical. For the civilized disciple, religion provides stability and certainty; for the barbarian, a life in God is one of risk and mystery.”
Page 82: “If you are a follower of Christ and you have allowed yourself to be domesticated, you have lost the power of who you are and who God intends for you to be. You were not created to be normal. God’s desire for you is not compliance and conformity. You have been baptized by Spirit and fire. Asleep within you is a barbarian, a savage to all who love the prim and proper. You must go to the primal place and enter the presence of the Most High God, for there you will be changed by His presence. Let Him unleash the untamed faith within you.
“At pentecost God unleashed His Spirit upon all who would declare Jesus their hope. In that moment a new tribe was born–a Spirit tribe. To all who would believe in His Son, the Lord God declares, ‘I will be their God, and they will be My people.’ This tribe would bear the evidence of His Spirit. They would be God-taught, God-moved, and God-inspired.”
Page 93: “From the moment we become citizens of the kingdom of God, we become aliens and strangers in a world that chooses to live absent of God. From the first step taken to follow Jesus, we are out of step with the rest of the world. Once your life is in sync with the story of God, you become out of sync with any story that attempts to ignore or eliminate God. You are a stranger to them, an alien among them, a nomadic wanderer who, while refusing to be rooted in this life, seems to somehow enjoy this life most.”
Pages 108-109: “There is a barbarian revolt taking place, and its command center is the kingdom of God. Everywhere the kingdom of God advances, there is a violent engagement against a dark kingdom. To be born of God is to be made a citizen in the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of God is at war. Do not confuse this kingdom with Paradise. Salvation is not reentry into a Paradise Lost; it is enlistment in the mission of God.
“Jesus is telling us in no uncertain terms that there is a battle raging. This is perhaps the most important reason why we must choose the barbarian way and resist any temptation to become civilized. Domesticated Christians are far too willing to abdicate for the soul of the world. Civility focuses our energy on all the wrong places. We spend our lives emphasizing our personal development and spiritual well-being. We build churches that become nothing more than hiding places for the faithful while pretending that our actions are for the good of the world. Or we choose political and secular vehicles to try to advance our cultural values, strangely attempting to make unbelieving people act like civilized believers.
“In contrast Jesus calls us to a different way. He tells us this is a battle of kingdoms. He insists that if we are His followers, we must not live in a world defined only by the material. We cannot limit our sights to what is flesh and blood. We should know better than that. To see from a kingdom perspective is to know that there is a conflict of invisible kingdoms and that people’s lives are forever changed by what happens in the unseen. We are called to be warriors of light in dark places. We are mystical warriors who use weapons not of this world.”
Page 116: “The suffering of Christ glorifies God because it elevates love. Compelled by love, God would go where He knew suffering was certain. Love always moves to sacrifice, which is exactly where He calls us to go. We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that to follow Christ is to abandon the luxury of safety and security. If we are to be like Him, we must always risk for love. We are invited to follow Him with reckless abandon. The call of God is more than a leap of faith; it is a life of faith. Even when it seems beyond our abilities, we should not be surprised when God tells us to jump.”
Page 121-122: “Just yesterday a husband and wife told me that they raised their first son to be a gentleman, and now as a man he does not walk with Christ. They went on to say, ‘We have a second son, and we’re going to raise him as a barbarian.’ They understood firsthand the painful difference between a civilized Christian and the barbarian way of Jesus.
“How many stories do we need of children who grow up in church being forced to act like Christians rather than being won to the heart of God? Both are an effort to shape the character of our children. The first is an external force; the latter an internal force. The civilized Christian does what is right out of fear; the barbarian does what is right out of love. The Christian civilization is held together by rules and rituals; the barbarian revolt is fueled by the passion of God and guided by the mission of God. If our children are going to walk away from Christ, we need to raise them in such a way that they understand that to walk away from Jesus is to walk away from a life of faith, risk, and adventure and to choose a life that is boring, mundane, and ordinary.”
Pages 126-127: “When we are born again, we are dropped not into a maternity ward, but into a war zone. Our birthplace is less mother’s womb and more battlefield earth. Maybe the first word we hear should not be ‘welcome,’ but ‘jump.’ There is no trial run, no practice life.
“When you enter the kingdom of God, there is no safe zone or waiting room. There really isn’t even a boot camp. It’s on-the-job, on-the-field training. You get to take your first steps of new life in the middle of the battlefield. The Scriptures are quite clear about this. You are in the middle of a war. Yet the war is not against flesh and blood; the war is not against people.”
Page 128: “It is true that the enemy will essentially leave you alone if you are domesticated. He will not waste his energy destroying a civilized religion. If anything, he uses his energy to promote such activity. Religion can be one of the surest places to keep us from God. When our faith becomes refined, it is no longer dangerous to the dark kingdom.
“Barbarians, on the other hand, are not to be trusted. They respect no borders that are established by powers or principalities. They have but one King, one Lord, and one mission. They are insolent enough to crash the gates of hell. For the sake of others, they are willing to risk their own lives and thrust themselves into the midst of peril.”
Page 133: “I’m not saying that we should all go around naked, but I am saying that we need to find the courage and freedom to be ourselves. We need to let ourselves become the unique individuals that God created us to be. We need to stop trying to be what everyone else wants us to be and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks. Civilized people measure one another by their robes and signet rings. The barbarians measure only heart and actions. Barbarians live as if they are naked before God and naked before men. They have nothing to hide; they do not waste their energy pretending to be someone they’re not. It was Nathaniel, whom Jesus saw while he was alone under a fig tree, that He described as a man without guile. God sees straight through to the heart and looks for those in whom there is nothing false. The barbarian hides nothing from God, and his tribe battles naked and unashamed.”
Pages 140-141: “Jesus leads us into the heart of the dark kingdom, into the soul of what is most evil. He takes us where mankind has chosen to live. He calls us to where the darkness has made those who wander there desperate for light. He leads us as warriors of light to risk our lives for the deliverance of others. Again, our own weapons are love, hope, and faith, and they are our only defense. Yet we above all know that they and only they liberate us and fulfill the deepest longings of our souls.
“If you choose to live your life in this way, if you make the insane decision to live your life for the sake or others, if you choose to follow the One whose barbarian path led Him to the brutality of the Cross, and if you embrace His invitation to take up your own cross and follow Him, then it has begun. If you dare allow God to unlock your primal spirit, He will unleash the raw and untamed faith within. Then you will know you have chosen the barbarian way out of civilization.”