“Young men our age are, honestly, lost. Peterson’s book is about what makes you happy through responsibility, meaningfulness, and finding something you truly enjoy.” That sentiment explains the popularity of clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson and his 2018 book, 12 Rules for Life.
Peterson draws attention because he challenges current cultural ideologies as foolish. He’s a secular prophet, calling out for a restoration of truth, common sense, and mutual respect. He makes no claim to religious faith, but that does not stop him from issuing a friendly charge to those who do. “The Christian Church is there to remind people,” he says in a video, “young men included, and perhaps even first and foremost, that they have a woman to find, a garden to walk in, a family to nurture, an ark to build, a land to conquer, a ladder to heaven to build, and the utter terrible catastrophe of life to face stalwartly in truth, devoted to love, and without fear.”
Peterson appeals to Christians to connect young men to meaning and purpose. I like his reference to the narratives of Hebrew Scripture. But he may misunderstand building “a ladder to heaven.” That is built by God Himself, not by you. Jesus, God the Son, is the ladder, built by His sacrifice on the cross for your sin. Your response to that sacrifice is repentance and faith.
Life as a Christian is appealing as an antidote to the “catastrophe of life.” To begin with, everybody needs love and a loving community. “Love one another,” Jesus said, “even as I have loved you.” It is also freedom from confusion and deception. You can “know the truth and the truth will make you free.”
It’s a new way to experience life. You sacrifice your old ways to find a new cause to live or die for. “Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it,” Jesus said. In Christ, you are re-created as “a new self” and join in God’s creativity by offering other people reasons to embrace and believe truth.
Jesus’ call is, “Follow me.” That is a mystery and an adventure as we walk into the unknown. The Christian life takes courage to stand for what matters. Jesus warned that doing so could attract persecution. Finally, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. The King we worship “is not of this world,” but He’s still at work in it.
So, allow me to deploy Peterson’s turn of phrase in summary. In Christ you have a love to share, a freedom to celebrate, a reason to sacrifice, an opportunity to create, an adventure to experience, a call to courage, and a King to worship. That is how you (young men included) face life as a stalwart follower of Jesus.
(John 8:32, 10:27, 13:34, 15:20, 18:36, Matt. 16:25, Eph. 4:24)