Friday, January 9, 2009

Could You Live A Year Like Jesus...

I found the following article in a recent on-line version of USAToday. I have excerpted it for your reading enjoyment.

Ed Dobson (pictured at right) has spent most of his life following Jesus. But only now does he realize how hard it is to live like him.

This retired pastor has spent the last year trying to eat, pray, talk and even vote as Jesus would. His revelation: Being Jesus is tough.

"I've concluded that I am a follower, but I'm not a very good one," Dobson said. "If you get serious about the Bible, it will really mess you up."

Dobson has preached in bars, picked up strangers needing rides and voted for a Democrat who he believes best reflects Christ's teachings. During his recent Christmas celebrations, as fellow Christians worshiped the Christ child born in a manger, Dobson appreciated more than ever the man who preached love, only to die on a cross.

"Everybody loves a baby," mused Dobson. "But when you start reading the teachings of this baby, and about the sufferings of this baby, you begin to understand better who he is."

Dobson has known suffering. He was diagnosed in 2001 with ALS, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Neither its deteriorating effects, nor his work as a vice president at a local Christian university, deterred his determination to emulate Jesus.

Cornerstone University President Joseph Stowell, who hired Dobson as vice president for spiritual formation last spring, said he admires Dobson's commitment, but is not surprised by it. It reflects his longtime friend's desire to "live outside the box" despite his health challenges.

"God often uses suffering to drive us deeper," Stowell said. "Ed's disease has put a heart-and-head focus on a deeper walk with God through the person of Jesus."

Dobson never knew how demanding that walk could be until he resolved to take it — and found it took him in unexpected directions.

He decided to devote a year to living like Jesus after reading
The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs' account of obeying Bible commands as literally as possible. If a non-religious Jew could do it, Dobson decided, so could a practicing Christian.

That meant following Old Testament laws about eating, clothing and behavior, since Jesus was a Jew whose followers created Christianity. Observing kosher dietary requirements to not mix meat and dairy products, Dobson gave up his beloved chicken-and-cheese burritos.

"I can't wait to order it for the first time" in the new year, he said with a chuckle.

The normally tee-totaling Dobson also allowed himself an occasional drink, noting Jesus was accused by critics of being a "glutton and a drunkard" who partied with pagans.

"If I'm at a party with a bunch of people who don't know the Lord and they offer me a beer, I'll take it," said Dobson, adding, "People at bars are wide open to talk about anything, including God."

Dobson celebrated Jewish holidays such as Yom Kippur and Passover and often prayed at a synagogue. He refrained from work and travel as much as possible on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, but made an exception to watch his grandchildren's soccer games.

Obeying the biblical command not to trim beards, he let his grow as long and shaggy as an orthodox rabbi's.

"It's a pain in the neck when you're eating spaghetti," he observed.

But a messy beard was the easy part of living like Jesus.

"The hard part is trying to live up to his teachings," Dobson said. "I've realized how far I fall short."

Dobson, who preached for 18 years, re-read the four Gospels every week. He took to heart Jesus' commands to help the poor and visit the imprisoned. He also heeded his warning that only those who do God's work will enter heaven. He prayed daily, repeatedly reciting "Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me" — the plea of a blind man Jesus healed.

Dobson doesn't pray to be healed of ALS, but relies on God's goodness to help him through the slowly debilitating disease. His frame grows thinner and his hands weaker by the day. Focusing on Jesus helps.

"I'm getting up every day not worried about what doesn't work; I'm getting up concerned about how do I live out this Jesus stuff."

The "Jesus stuff" has been good for Dobson, said his wife, Lorna.

"I respect him highly for doing that, but I always have respected his desire to do what he learns from the God's Word and his relationship with the Lord," she said.

Dobson said he hopes this time of economic hardship will make people think more about a Savior who came to help the poor and hungry and who wants his followers to do the same.

And, while he looks forward to cutting his beard and eating burritos in the new year, he won't forget what he has learned from Jesus.

"I intend to keep trying to live out his teachings in the new year," he said, "even more seriously than right now, if that's possible."

What do you think would be hardest about trying to live like Jesus?