Christians in Community

 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 SocietyHere’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.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

4 thoughts on “Christians in Community”

  1. Shane,
    All that you describe is vintage Peterson. He has little time for fast food “American Christianity.” I would recommend continuing to explore his corpus of material. Books like “Under the Unpredictable Plant” and the “Contemplative Pastor” are excellent studies in pastoral vocation. Also, his “Reversed Thunder” is a great little book on Revelation. In addition, what I have read of his “Spiritual Theology” series (e.g., Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places, Eat This Book, The Jesus Way, etc.) has been very good. It has always been strange to me that Peterson is known for the Message. I’ve never been a huge fan of it, and yet I generally like just about everything else I’ve read that he’s written. There’s a warmth, wisdom, and irenicism that seems to flow from his pen.


  2. You are not overhyping this book. It’s great. I’m listening to his class on prayer from Regent Audio that is also very good.


  3. Gee, Shane,I don’t know – after Peterson gave Wm. Young’s ‘The Shack’ a standing ovation deliriously hailing as comparable to John Bunyan’s ‘Prilgrim’s Progress’ my assessment of him dropped dramatically.


    1. Thanks guys. Nevada – I’ll sure look into those.

      GLW – Yikes! Ouch! The Shack was more than horrible!

      In a similar way, though, we still love Packer and his writings even though he did the whole ECT thing. “Knowing God” is sweet, no matter what!

      And, to be sure, I’ve made my own theological blunders before…



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