Congruence: Eugene Peterson


             There was so much more to Rev. Eugene Peterson, the author of The Message, a version of the Bible, than I had known about him, despite years spent with that volume in daily devotions. I knew he was a Presbyterian clergyman who had pastored a church for decades, but I didn’t know he was also their founding pastor, a biblical scholar (both Hebrew and Greek), the author of thirty books, and for many years Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. Besides The Message, he wrote three series of books (a pastoral theology, praying with the Bible, and spiritual theology) as well as over a dozen stand-out volumes, from Christ Plays in 10,000 Places to As Kingfishers Catch Fire.

            None of this would matter that much to me in my daily, rural life, except that his modern wording of the Bible, anchored in its original languages, has shaken me up on a nearly daily basis. So I wasn’t surprised when the Nov. 21 issue of Christian Century wrote several articles about the impact of his life. One piecesaid the word “congruence” was a huge concept in Peterson’s writing and his life.

            Congruence happens when how we live connects with our purpose and direction, and with God’s purpose for us.1 And it turns out Peterson referred to congruence a lot. For example, he said:

            +“To follow Jesus implies that we enter into a way of life that is given character and shape and direction by the one who calls us. To follow Jesus means picking up rhythms and ways of doing things that are often unsaid but always derivative from Jesus, formed by the influence of Jesus. . . . To follow Jesus is as much, or maybe even more, about feet as it is about ears and eyes.”(The Way of Jesus)

            + “It’s your heart, not the dictionary, that gives meaning to your words.” (The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language)

            + “Christians don’t simply learn or study or use Scripture; we assimilate it, take it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into acts of love, cups of cold water, missions into all the world, healing and evangelism and justice in Jesus’ name, hands raised in adoration of the Father, feet washed in company with the Son.” (Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading)

May our lives develop greater congruence as we keep giving our lives to Christ!

 Your partner in ministry,

Betsy Schwarzentraub

1 – See pastoral counselor Ronald Greer, in If You Know Who You Are You’ll Know What to Do: Living With Integrity.

2 – “People,” Christian Century, Nov. 21, 2018.