Eugene Peterson Dr. Eugene H. Peterson, born in 1932, is a pastor, scholar, author, and poet. He has written nearly thirty books, but is best known for The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language (Navpress Publishing Group, 2002), a contemporary paraphrase of the Bible.
It is not difficult in such a world to get a person interested in the message of the gospel; it is terrifically difficult to sustain the interest. In our kind of culture anything, even news about God can be sold if it is packaged freshly; but when it loses its novelty, it goes on the garbage heap. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for the long apprenticeship in what earlier generations called holiness.
What is hazardous in my life is my work as a Christian. Every day I put faith on the line. I have never seen God. In a world where nearly everything can be weighed, explained, quantified, subjected to psychological analysis and scientific control I persist in making the center of my life a God whom no eye hath seen, nor ear heard, whose will no one can probe. That’s a risk.
The enormous entertainment industry in our land is a sign of the depletion of joy in our culture. Society is a bored, gluttonous king employing a court jester to divert it after and overindulgent meal. But that kind of joy never penetrates our lives, never changes our basic constitution. The effects are extremely temporary-a few minutes, a few hours, a few days at most. When we run out of money, the joy trickles away. A common but futile strategy for achieving joy is trying to eliminate things that hurt: get rid of pain by numbing the nerve ends, get rid of insecurity by eliminating risks, get rid of disappointments by depersonalizing your relationships. We cannot make ourselves joyful. Joy cannot be commanded, purchased or arranged. Joy is a product of abundance; it is the overflow of vitality. We can decide to live in response to the abundance of God, and not under the dictatorship of our own poor needs. We can decide to live in the environment of a living God and not our own dying selves. We can decide to center ourselves in the God who generously gives and not in our own egos which greedily grab.
Repentance is the No we say to the world’s lies and the Yes we say to God’s Truth. It is the first word in Christian immigration, sets us on the way to traveling in the light. It is a rejection that is also an acceptance, a leaving that develops into an arriving, a No to the world that is a Yes to God.
There are no easy tasks in the Christian way; there are only tasks which can be done faithfully or erratically, with joy or resentment. And there is no room for any of us, pastors or grocers, accountants or engineers, typists or gardeners, to speak in tones of self-pity of the terrible burdens of our work.
Busyness is the enemy of spirituality. It is essentially laziness. It is doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing. It is filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God’s actions. It is taking charge.