Friday, April 13, 2012

Thoughts on The Year of Living Biblically by A. J. Jacobs

Law Broken: Stealing/hotlinking this image.
Just finished going through the book The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible By A. J. Jacobs. I'm a Christian. I'm relational & non-institutional. I know of our freedom from the law and that Christ ended it on the cross which also ended Him charging us with sin. Here are my main take aways and thoughts from the book:

Keeping the law doesn't result in knowing in God.
After over a year of trying to keep all of the biblical commands literally Jacobs still did not believe in God. Truly you can't know God through the law but only through trusting Jesus. After a life time of being an agnostic & a non-practicing Jew to 8 months of being a practicing Jew Jacobs began his quest to keep the New Testament commands. One reason he said that he did not keep the command to believe in Jesus was that he felt it would betray his Jewish heritage, very interesting considering all of the Jews who have and do reject Jesus. Some laws did improve his character. After all one of the purposes of the law was to help people know how to love others.

No one can keep the whole law and certainly not all the time.
After hearing about the multitude of laws Jacobs tried to keep along with the many Jews who try to do the same it is absurd for any Christian to claim that we should keep the old testament laws. No christian comes galactically close to keep the laws that many strict Jews do and even the strictest Jews don't recognize or keep everything. The worst screaming from the pulpit legalists still only hold most biblical commands' importance in the abstract (only mentally, impractically).
Everyone does picking and choosing when it comes to the bible and its commands.
Continuing from the above, most Christians think that we still are bound to the 10 commandments (which we aren't, see 2 Corinthians 3:6-18) but I've never seen one try to keep the real sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday). Absolutely nothing in scripture says that the sabbath became Sunday and Julian calendar Sunday at that! I don't understand this type of pointless hypocrisy. Why claim to hold something so important and push it on others when in practicality you don't ever feel like you need to keep 1-2 of the commandments. Again I know people aren't to be burdened by having to keeps laws anymore so I'm not saying they should try. But 10 commandment pushers are as perplexing to me as someone who says, "I use all of the ingredients of mac & cheese" and never uses the cheese. The emperor has no clothes! Why pretend?

Literally vs. literally to me
The old testament laws were written to the Israelites. Some of what Jesus said clarified those laws. When Jesus died those laws ended. The bible says they were nailed to the cross with Jesus. The new testament letters were written much like an advice column or a letter from a parent to a child who lives away from home. The advice and commands given to the recipients of those letters don't apply to every Christian for all time. It may be beneficial advice especially if you have similar issues as they did but you are not bound to take the advice. It is still good advice but it was not advice for you. The general information presented can still be taken as universal truths without assuming that the commands apply to everyone.
Sadly most Christians seem to approach the bible as a rule book, "find the rules and obey them or you're in trouble with God." This approach is like reading a history book and seeing George Washington telling his troops to attack the British and thinking, "If I'm going to be a good American I need to go attack the British too" and then feeling guilty whenever you are not attacking the British.

Jesus used figurative language
This was a point I have never had emphasized to me before. In John 3 Jesus says to Nicodemus that "a man must be born again to see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus takes this literally and asks Jesus "How can an old man be born? He can't reenter his mother's womb." Jesus then goes on to talk about it referring to being born of the spirit. This story is a solid example showing that Jesus did in fact use figurative language even outside of parables. Thus statements such as "this bread is my body" can have symbolic or deeper meanings. Since Jesus is God that would suggest God would have used such language in the Old Testament too. It is usually pretty obvious but John 3 makes it undoubtful that God talks like this.
Freedom from the law is joyous
At the end of the book Jacobs no longer had to keep the law, his experiment was over. He said he felt free. He was astonished at the freedom of choice and lack of burden. He also said as time went on the guilt of not keeping the law faded away. As a christian who once felt obligated to & tried to keep commands I had a similar experience. Even though Jacobs didn't find the ultimate freedom of knowing Christ he did find the freedom from the law that Jesus earned on the cross for all mankind. No one is bound to keep the law anymore and only Jews were before Christ. Those to try to keep it now only pick up a burden to carry or have others encourage them to pick it up. Thank God for His freedom! Knowing Him is the greatest joy in life!   

The red marks of Jesus
Here is something the author didn't address but the symbolism sprung to life when I heard it. Jacobs was keeping the law that said to bind God's words to your forehead and at the same time the law that says to bind money to your hand. He said at the end of the day when he took them off they "left red marks on my head and hands." Wow! What a symbol of Jesus wearing the crown of thorns and having nails put through His hands.

Jesus said the scriptures point to Him and Hebrews says that the old covenant practices contained foreshadows to Jesus. So the strange things like this reasonably can somehow show us Jesus. Here the law is worn on your head. Jesus took the full judgments and curses of the law on His head. The law had money being bound to your hand. Jesus paid our debt for sin and that payment was paid in part with nails through the hands. Amazing!

The book is entertaining and exposes you to the multitude of commands and types people that are out there. So read it if you want to. You're not obligated by law nor do you have to be fearful of sin. And A.J., if you are still obsessively Googling yourself thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment telling me how many laws I broke in this post.

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