Friend and colleague, Scot McKnight, recently published his latest book One.Life: Jesus Calls, We Follow and he generously gave me a copy a couple of weeks before it was released. Scot is a New Testament scholar and popular speaker and writer, whose blog, The Jesus Creed, provides a forum for an active community that has lively discussion on matters of the faith and is routinely mentioned on this site.
One.Life is written for college age students and 20 somethings (which I am neither), but it is quite illuminating for those like me that work closely with its target audience. And I can’t imagine parents of this group wouldn’t learn a thing or 30 as well. Just a heads-up, due to him being a good friend (and mentor?… it’s your fault Scot after Ch. 7), it’s impossible for me to give an unbiased review of the book. If you’re looking for a “critical” book review… you’d better turn elsewhere. So, let’s just say it is outstanding and a quick read. I read it in a single setting last semester late one Sunday night/Monday morning; no one in my early AM Micro lecture seemed to notice my lack of sleep, thankfully.
The book is about what it means to Scot to actually follow Jesus and it comes out of the disconnect that he had personally between the life he entered upon “accepting” Christ and the life that he learned Jesus lived while he was in Seminary. Add a few decades of rumination and interactions with students in the same boat but a different sea and you get One.Life. The book is littered with personal reflection and stories of students he’s had the pleasure of teaching (and who have in turn, taught him), and includes “interludes” after each of the chapters.
The first eight chapters are each focused on one aspect of what it means to be a follower of Jesus and build upon one other to result in Scot’s following description of a Christian:
- A Christian is one who follows Jesus by devoting his or her One.Life (Ch. 1) to the kingdom (Ch. 2) of God, fired by Jesus’ own imagination (Ch. 3), to a life of loving God and loving others (Ch. 4), and to a society shaped by justice (Ch. 5), especially for those who have been marginalized, to peace (Ch. 6), and to a life devoted to acquiring wisdom (Ch. 7) in the context of a local church (Ch. 8). This life can only be discovered by being empowered by God’s Spirit.
The final six chapters look at key personal or intellectual issues that the audience (and most, I would gather) struggles with in their attempts to live the kingdom life as a follower of Jesus: commitment (Ch. 9), sex (Ch. 10), vocation (Ch. 11), eternity (Ch. 12), God is love (Ch. 13), cross, life, resurrection (Ch. 14).
I’m not going to go into any further details on the book here, other than to say there were many things that I learned and most importantly, many things that got me to thinking about my own life as a follower of Jesus. Therefore, I’ll focus the rest of my words here on what I took personally from reading One.Life. These could be considered application points and are not necessarily key in the book, but are specific ways in which the book inspired me.
The first point is I now get a better understanding of the way Scot and others that are active in social media see “community”. I don’t have anything against that (obviously, since I do the same things albeit at a a muted level), but I didn’t before see how Scot specifically connected that to his life as a follower of Jesus and participant in the kingdom of God. I thought that it was primarily a way to get a broader readership, which is not to be considered a negative, but is clearly different. But I now get it. Scot’s online community is his Christian community. Understanding this inspires me and is leading me towards making an even greater commitment to online community specifically, and overall community, in general.
Second, and this is to the teacher in me, reading One.Life has made me want to be a more engaged and passionate teacher. Certainly, some subject matters make this more difficult than others and I don’t think I’m disengaged or dispassionate now, but the book drips with Scot’s enthusiasm for teaching and the connections that has with his students. I want to be better and I want to see them the way he does.
Third, this book reveals a career of reflecting on students that Scot has engaged in the classroom or over coffee in his office. This is my third year of teaching. Like other young faculty members, I tend to focus and worry on the material that I’m getting across. This is to be expected, I’m sure. But, even now I can be studying them to see the patterns that are observable in the generation(s) of students that I’m teaching. I’m inspired to not only mentor individually (which comes more naturally to me) but also to take notes generally. Scot sees the trends in the current college generation and I hope that I’ll do the same as I mature as a professor. If one is to speak to a generation (even in matters of science and religion which is what I am more accustomed to), one must understand that generation.
Finally, this book reminded me of how important it is that each of us individually identify his/her passion, allow it to crystallize, and then pursue it relentlessly. That passion for me is two-fold. First, I want to continue my academic interest in science and religion as an intellectual discipline. Second, I want to show Christians and scientists that faith and science are not mutually exclusive and that the world is a hell of a lot grayer than the black and white that the media portrays. I already knew that these were my passions, but this book reminded me that pursuing them is an integral part of life as a member of God’s kingdom and follower of Jesus. And because I’ve found mine, it’s my goal to help others find theirs.