On the recommendation of a friend, I recently picked up a book called The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction by Justin Whitmel Early. The author is a former missionary turned lawyer who very thoughtfully and practically thinks about habits and how they relate to the Christian life. I mention it because the book resonates with this past Sunday’s passage from Colossians. Speaking on the passage from Colossians 3, I talked about Paul’s reflections on clothing, how he exhorts us to put off the old humanity, the old way of doing things, and to put on Christ in whose image we are being renewed. That process of being renewed is ongoing, lifelong, and deeply related to the habitual things we do. Putting on Christ has to do, in other words, with what Paul calls practices. So this book offers some helpful ways of answering the question, what practices go along with putting on Christ?
So what are these practices? While Early writes about things you might expect, like prayer and scripture reading, he approaches them in a non-pious and very realistic way. This is not a pastor or a theologian trying to answer these questions in the abstract or in ideal circumstances. In fact, that’s why my friend related to the book. It is written by someone like him, a busy lawyer with a young family who is trying to figure out to be a faithful Christian in the midst of all the business. I think a lot of you can relate to that.
Scripture reading and prayer are not the only things he discusses. He talks about boundaries with our devices, intentionally sharing meals with others, and how to practice Sabbath. As I mentioned he is realistic and unflinching, so he talks about pornography and excessive drinking, and how people with addictive personalities can approach new habits. He also offers some helpful approaches to media and recommends calculating the amount time you spend consuming media and being careful about the kinds of stories you consume. In the back of the book, he adapts all of the habits for different people in different seasons of life, so this is not a one-size-fits-all, shoe-horn yourself into this mold and only this mold or else kind of book.
If you are curious about habit building in a Christian context or are wanting to reset your relationship to your devices, or are thinking about how to manage a very busy life while remaining a faithful Christian, I think this book would be a great thing to read.