In 2007, Equire Magazine editor AJ Jacobs published The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible.
Jacobs, an ethnic Jew (though he describes himself as being “as Jewish as Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant”) grew up without religion and decided to spend a year following the laws of the Old Testament as closely and accurately as possible.
The result, as one Christian wrote in a review, was “absurdly funny, thought-provoking, and absolutely worth reading.”
In order to obey the laws of the Old Testament, Jacobs followed not only the famous commands (The Ten Commandments, to love your neighbor, and to be fruitful and multiply–he and his wife had twins during his year-long experiment) but also the hundreds of oft-ignored commands (to not wear clothes of mixed fibers, not shave your beard, and to stone adulterers).
And the results are interesting for Christians and non-Christians alike. As you read his book, it’s as if you’re reading his private journal. You see his inward thoughts transform as he practices the outward works of the Law.
He became more thankful. He became more reverent. Granted, he’s still an agnostic. But it’s at least interesting to see how obedience to God’s Law can, in some ways, point people to Him.
SO WHAT SHOULD CHRISTIANS MAKE OF IT?
Here are a few application points that we should not make from Jacobs’ story:
- Blind obedience to the Law doesn’t please God. Hosea 6:6 says, “I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice; knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” Obedience to the Law, disconnected from God, leads to death, not life.
- The Law doesn’t stand alone. When Jacobs set out to follow the Law, he missed out on the purpose of the law: to point us to our need for a savior.
But there are some lessons that we can take away from his experience:
- The outward working of the Law is directly connected to an inward heart condition. Jacobs found that his outward actions were changing his heart, and he discovered that his heart was affecting his obedience to the Law. Jesus taught this in Matthew 5, saying, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…” (Matthew 5:21-22).
- We cannot follow the the Law. In his TED Talk on his year-long experiment, Jacobs says, “There were two types of laws that were particularly challenging. The first was avoiding the little sins that we all commit every day. You know, I could spend a year not killing, but spending a year not gossiping, not coveting, not lying… I had to do it.” We cannot follow the Law perfectly. The beauty is that the Law was designed to point us to Jesus, who lived a perfect life that we could not live so that we can have life with Him.
What if we were set out with the same zeal and excitement to obey the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2): to love God and love others? “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Galatians 5:14).
Church, I challenge you to zealously pursue the Law of Christ:
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” — Matthew 22:36-40.