I have been taking a slow stroll through A.J. Jacob’s The Year of Living Biblically. Adelyn bought it for me for Christmas. She picked it out herself. There’s a picture of Jacobs on the front cover looking scarily like Charlton Heston in his Moses’ garb.
I didn’t know quite what to expect. The book is about Jacobs’ quest to live one year in literal obedience to the commands of scripture. He was not a follower of Christ at all as he began his quest, and I’m anxious to discover what the conclusion of his spiritual journey becomes. (If you’ve read the book or know it, please don’t ruin it for me.)
Jacobs says after his first week of biblically-attempted living:
“The learning curve remains crushingly steep. I continue to second-guess everything I say or do. I’ve noticed my speech has slowed down, as if I’m speaking English as a second language. This is because I mentally check every word before allowing myself to utter it. Is it a lie? Is it a boast? Is it a curse? Is it gossip? What about exaggeration? …
I’m poring over religious study books, desperately trying to get a handle on this topic and every other. My reading list grows exponentially. Every time I read a book, it’ll mention three other books I feel I have to read. It’s like a relentless series of pop-up ads.”
I’m particularly enthralled by Jacobs self-willed attempt at complete obedience. Most of us who have been Christians for a while will quickly recognize the futility of strict self-willed obedience. Scripture teaches us that a person simply can’t be perfectly obedient to the law.
In fact, the Bible teaches that only through faith in Christ’s perfect obedience will any of us ever be justified before God. Our attempts at self-created righteousness, no matter how sincere, are destined to fail. Sin is part of us. We need the deliverance offered by a Savior.
However, that’s what makes this particular journey a fascinating one. Other skeptics have investigated Christianity and the Bible with purposeful angst, only to emerge from their crusade dramatically transformed into faith-filled believers. Lee Strobel is one such. What will happen with Jacobs?
I find myself laughing hysterically one moment and pondering his profound insights in the next. One instance that drew some har-de-har-har’s was Jacobs’ description of his visit to an Amish community in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania:
“The trip takes four hours. Incidentally, I’m proud to say that I had absolutely no urge to make a double entendre when we passed Intercourse, Pennsylvania, which I see as a moral victory.
We pull into the driveway, and the first thing I lay eyes on is a woman in full Amish regalia – ankle-length blue dress and a white bonnet – wielding a gas-powered leaf blower. This isn’t an image I expected to see. She doesn’t have a video iPod, but still. It punctures my Amish stereotypes right up front.”
I’ll keep you posted on the book as I continue, but right away, I can recommend it. This Esquire magazine editor-at-large’s experience with a year of living biblically is immediately engaging.