When we lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan a number of years ago, we attended Calvary Church. Our pastor was Dr. Ed Dobson, who was a wonderfully gifted preacher. Dr. Dobson officiated at a dedication service for our oldest daughter, Mary Alisa, and twins Christy and Chase.
Since retiring from the pastorate, Ed has done two really amazing things. First, he served as general editor of The Knowing Jesus Study Bible. If you aren't familiar with this work, it's a marvelously insightful edition of the scriptures with informative and interesting notes throughout. Second, Ed read the book The Year of Living Biblically, and determined that he would do exactly that.
You probably know the story of Jesus well enough already to realize what a radical choice this really was.
There are obvious differences, of course, between living in 21st century America and first century Palestine. Jesus walked everywhere he went; we drive cars and fly in airplanes. We watch too much television, which wasn't invented in Jesus' time. Although we think we couldn't live without one, Jesus did not own an iPod.
Committing to read and re-read the four Gospels for a year (as Ed did) might be unusual, but that is still far from radical. But would you or I be willing to eat like Jesus? Most of us would have to give up our favorite foods 0n a kosher diet. If you're a male, like me, would you grow a beard like Jesus almost certainly had? Would we observe the Jewish Sabbath, as described in the Old Testament scriptures? Jesus did, and so did Ed, for an entire year.
But beyond the surface issues of outward appearance, would living like Jesus for a year change us? Would we have the nerve to go into a bar and strike up conversations by talking about God? Would we take the exercise seriously enough to actually reconsider how we vote in an election? Would we find the discipline and resolve to obey the commands of Jesus? Could we love our neighbors, or remember the poor, or bless those who curse us, or turn the other cheek?
Maybe the beginning of a new year is a good opportunity for self-proclaimed Christ-followers to consider if we really are living like Jesus. Not whether or not we use electricity or have a cell phone, but how well we are listening to - and applying - the teachings of Jesus in our daily lives.
Kosher diet or not, that's good food for thought. Now chew on this: