How Should We Then Live?

January 30, 2009, 11:30 am; posted by
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Several years ago there was a lot of buzz about a must-read book by Francis Schaeffer, entitled How Should We Then Live? People seemed captivated by the prospect of getting an answer on how a Christian should live and they used the book — or at least its title — as a springboard for their own thoughts and sermons on the subject. Charles Colson even followed up with a book, which I have not read, called How Should We Now Live?

After I finished the book, I had the distinct impression that someone — either them or me — had misunderstood the book. The Bible verse it referenced (Ezekiel 33:10) actually translates, “How can we hope to survive?,” after the Jews had turned their backs on God. It had nothing to do with the very important question, “How should a Christian live?,” but rather, “How can we hope to survive if we turn our backs on God?” The book seemed to pursue the textual question, as Schaeffer examines “the rise and decline of Western thought and culture,” so I imagine there were some disappointed purchasers who had expected some kind of Walking With God for Dummies.

It was a thick book, filled with a very long and intricate examination of Western culture; I remember it chiefly for two things. The first thing is the assertion that the Renaissance and the Reformation were two arms of the same movement, carried out by people who reacted differently to the repression of the Catholic Church in the realms of art, literature, music, and other fields. The men and women of the Reformation rejected the authority of the church and turned to the Bible instead. Those in the world did the same, but looked to classical learning for a replacement.

(The second was the art, including a drawing of Leonardo da Vinci\’s “David.” Our grandkids were visiting while I was reading it, and I heard my grandson yell from behind my back to his parents: “Grandpa\’s reading a book with naked men in it!”)

Then and now, there remains a tremendous hunger to have the Christian life simplified for us. We know we are Christians. We have learned the doctrines and idiosyncrasies of our religious traditions. We know where we\’re going when it\’s all over. But don\’t we all, at times, grope blindly in the dark, doubting not the facts of the Christian life, but whether our interpretations of those facts are valid? Life is filled with victories and defeats; we sometimes consider victories an affirmation of our path, and defeats as a sure sign of our error. In fact, neither one is necessarily true.

So the hunger remains. I think that is why The Purpose-Driven Life was so successful. People want to know the point: enough guessing! What is my life supposed to look like? What am I supposed to do? What is God\’s will?

But of course the only book that explains that has already been written. It’s funny how so many people will read a shelf full of books to figure out Christianity, while leaving untouched the one book given to us directly from heaven. This was quite a long introduction, but over the next two weeks, I want to share some things from Romans chapter 12, which I think answer the question “How should I live?” better than anything else I have ever found.


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