Every now and then Hollywood discovers religion, although what it finds doesn’t always equate to what I wish they had discovered. A recent example is the new sitcom, Living Biblically. You may not have seen it yet. The first episode only aired a couple of weeks ago. The series is an adaptation of the non-fiction book by A.J. Jacobs, published in 2007, in which the author spent a twelve-month period living as literally as possible by the Bible’s various rules and regulations. Needless to say, abiding by ancient restrictions in the 21st Century is a lot harder than you might think. The new sitcom seeks to show the humor behind the struggle. At times it actually does a good job of highlighting the untimeliness of such an effort; at other times it merely causes the believing viewer to cringe.
Having acknowledged my ambivalence, I have to say that I appreciate the effort. If the series generates any eyeballs and, even better, moves viewers to consider incorporating faith-based practices into their everyday experience, I’m all for it. But my deeper fear is that, as with most media treatments of religion, it will soon generate into caricature and error.
One concern I can already see is that from a secular standpoint, “biblical living” ignores the relational aspect of our faith for a purely religious one. In other words, as far as the world is concerned, living by Bible teachings can be described in terms of rules and regulations instead of communion and companionship. As I read the Bible, the goal of our devotion is to become a “friend of God” and to be “in Christ.” It’s not that I don’t appreciate a strong morality in my religious practice, it’s more that at the end of the day I find my assurance in the fact that I have been “saved by grace through faith – and this not from myself, it is the gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). The works that I do, I do, not in order to be saved; I do them because I have been saved. And I do them through grace. There is a difference.
I think we get it right at MBBC when we speak of “living with grace and generosity.” That’s our way of aligning our everyday experience with the claims of Scripture while recognizing that our ability to do so comes through a power that is not of us.
So, let us focus our energies on living “faithfully.” That way, when we comport ourselves in accordance with what the Bible teaches, we’ll be doing so in gratitude and not obligation, the spirit of which could very well entice others to join us in the journey of faith that they too might experience the God in whose image each of us was created and the God who loves us too much ever to let us go.
“Through (Jesus) and for his name’s sake, we received grace and apostleship to call people from among all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith” (Romans 1:5).