Smith Models Jesus’ Lifestyle
Stephen W. Smith. 2012. The Jesus Life: Eight Ways to Recover Authentic Christianity. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook.
Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
One of the most perplexing problems in postmodern American is the breakdown of healthy boundaries between public and private, church and state, between work and leisure, and even between male and female. Lacking healthy boundaries, Americans have become anxious, sleep-deprived, eating too much, using too many drugs, and suicidal, as life expectancy declines due to these self-inflicted wounds. With the decay of reasonable boundaries, young couples flinch at the idea of bringing children into the world, preferring to keep pets that are cheaper and offer unconditional love. How should Christians respond in their lifestyles to this dystopian reality facing perhaps seventy percent of the population?
Stephen W. Smith’s book, The Jesus Life, starts with a promise: “This book will help you recover your life.” (17) Smith (30) commends these verses:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt 11:28-30 ESV)
He starts by asking three questions:
- What do you need to recover from?
- Has someone or something stolen the life you wanted?
- What’s not working for you in your life? (30)
He finds his answers not in the teachings of Jesus, but in the cadence of the sustainable life that Jesus actually led (33, 36).
Luke’s Gospel Outlines Jesus’ Lifestyle
Smith finds Luke, the Greek doctor, particularly helpful in sorting out the Jesus’ lifestyle. Unlike other New Testament writers, Luke was not Hebrew and the assumptions of a Jewish lifestyle were new to him. Only Luke, for example, writes:
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.” (Luke 4:16)
A Jewish writer would not need to say that Jesus’ custom was to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath—all good Jews do this and would not need to observe it. So Smith writes something important for our gentile ears to hear:
“As a boy, Jesus was raised in a culture of sustainable rhythm. His soul was shaped by the cadence of Sabbath keeping and seasonal festivals that were intended to help him and all people to remember God’s faithfulness, protection, and provision.” (36)
In contemporary jargon, Jesus did not grow up surrounded by people burning the candlesticks from both ends; he grew up knowing the boundaries of Sabbath, prayer, and religious festivals pointing to God (36). Here we find an outline of answers to Smith’s three questions cited above.
Rhythms of Life Remain Key
Smith advocates developing a new rhythms of life that will: “sustain and replenish our lives” (41) We start by keeping the Sabbath (44), because tired people love neither God nor neighbor, but Smith looks to us to develop our own rituals of life to remind us of God and who we are. His chapters end with suggestions on how to implement this suggestion, such as “Ask a group of life-giving friends to join you once a month for a meal.” (46)
Smith focuses attention on Luke’s insistence that we see the rhythm—engage then disengage (54)—of Jesus’ ministry. This pattern is repeated seven times in Luke—4:38-42, 5:16, 6:12-19, 9:10-12, 9:28-36, 11:1, and 21:37-38 (56-60). In this last two verses, for example, we read:
“And every day he was teaching in the temple, but at night he went out and lodged on the mount called Olivet. And early in the morning all the people came to him in the temple to hear him.” (Luke 21:37-38)
If Jesus took time to rest and observe the Sabbath, why don’t we? Clearly, we need to do this.
Who is Stephen Smith?
Stephen Smith describes himself on his website with these words:
“Co-Founders, President and Spiritual Directors of Potter’s Inn. Steve was educated at Lenoir Rhyne College, NC, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, KY; Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, IL. Steve has pastored churches in KY, NC and the Netherlands. As a speaker, spiritual director, author and companion, Steve offers soul care and spiritual care through many avenues.”
Smith is the author of numerous books, including The Lazarus Life, Soul Custody, and Soul Shaping. He and his wife, Gwen, live in Colorado.
Eight Ways to Recover Christianity?
What are the eight ways to recover authentic Christianity? These are outlined in separate chapters in part 3 of the book:
- Living the Jesus Life Every Day.
- Choosing Obscurity to Cultivate Life.
- Living the Life with Our Family and Those Closest to Us.
- Cultivating Friendships in Reality and Truth.
- Savoring a Sacred Memory.
- Extending Life to Others.
- Creating Signposts as We Journey through Life.
- Understanding the Role of Pain and Suffering (11-12).
Part 1 of the book defines the problem and part 2 outlines Jesus’ lifestyle. Part 4 provides an overview of the good life, building on what was previously said.
Stephen W. Smith’s book, The Jesus Life, interprets the lifestyle of Jesus in simple English with many examples taken from daily life. Unlike many authors, Smith focuses on applying principles taken from Jesus’ example to contemporary life. Underscoring this focus on application, Smith quotes scripture primarily from Eugene Peterson’s contemporary translation of the Bible, The Message.
Other ways to engage online:
Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.
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