What a book! I’ve not read anything by Eugene Peterson before, and now I wish I would have! I realize I’m an “optimistic” reviewer of books (i.e. I’d rather focus on the strengths of a book than the weaknesses), but seriously, I don’t think I’m being overly optimistic here. Even though I’m not a huge fan of The Message, this book will certainly make my top 20 list for 2010. I even love the title: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society. Here’s a small taste.
“The Bible knows nothing of a religion defined by what a person does inwardly in the privacy of thought or feeling, or apart from others on lonely retreat. [Peterson here briefly discusses Matt 22.34-40 – Love the Lord above all and neighbor second.] Christians make this explicit in their act of worship each week by gathering as a community: other people are unavoidably present. As we come to declare our love for God, we must face the unlovely and lovely fellow sinners whom God loves and commands us to love. This must not be treated as something to put up with, one of the inconvenient necessities of faith in the way that paying taxes is an inconvenient consequence of living in a secure and free nation. It is not only necessary; it is desirable that our faith have a social dimension, a human relationship.”
The book is a sort of meditation on the Psalms of Ascent. To me, it reads like Bonhoeffer + Calvin + Barth + Willimon + Horton + Lewis. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction was very helpful to me in tons of different ways. I’m certainly going to read it again and again, and now get a few more of Peterson’s works.
Side note: If you get it (please do!), you may want to get the 20th anniversary edition (2000). Though it hasn’t changed much, the few additions (I think) were really good. Here’s the link to the one I’m talking about.