What does living as a Christian look like for you? Have you ever felt like God wasn’t interested in what you do outside of time in church, whether it is the meal you’re cooking for dinner tonight, the latest novel you’re reading, or protecting the environment? What about those hours spent attempting to focus on a lecture, or squeezing in time for your meal deal lunch before returning to work in a hurry?
Julian Hardyman opens Maximum Life with 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” He writes the book with an injection of joy and praise, powerfully expressing how we can be living maximum lives for God, doing everything for his glory. Rather than creating a secular-sacred divide, where Christian living is confined to just time spent in church or Christian Unions, he deconstructs what living a ‘spiritual’ life all for Jesus looks like in our lives today.
Hardyman’s book uses the Bible’s redemptive story as its foundation. He starts with Part 1: A story of glory: given, lost and found, and traces the story of the world and humanity from creation to new creation. It describes the universe that God created, the men and women created in His image, the command for humans to develop the earth, but our eventual fall and its impact on work. But he continues by describing a world and life fully redeemed by God through Jesus, and perfect glory achieved at last in the new creation. Hardyman then follows with a close examination of what he refers to as the Two Great Commissions and Two Great Commandments, serving as a natural segue into Part 2: Glory to God in everything?
The Great Commissions refer to Matthew 28:18-20, ‘to make disciples from all nations’, as well as the First Great Commission in Genesis 1:28 ‘to fill, rule and develop the earth’, which Hardyman also refers to as the ‘Human Cultural Project’. The two commandments then form a grounding for moral principles to go about life, namely ‘loving God and loving our neighbour’, drawing from Matthew 22:37-29. Hardyman underscores that these Two Great Commissions and Two Great Commandments form the foundation for Christian living:
‘We need to combine the First Great Commission and the Second Great Commission with the Two Great Commandments to give a vision for a life in which every moment is charged with meaning and every day is a glory day.’ (80)
Using these Commissions and Commandments to shape Christian life, Hardyman spends Part 2 of the book painting a picture of living life all for the glory of God, whether in work, creation care, arts or justice, and in understanding our own callings.
Reading the book is such a joy, from his cheerful writing style that is grounded in the Bible’s story, to practical advice on what living for the glory of God might look like in different areas, from creation care to our daily hobbies. Without drifting far from the God who provides us with the grace to be in relationship with Him, Hardyman provides a considered, modern response to Christian living in today’s culture. But Maximum Life is not just about always singing enthusiastic praises for God. Hardyman’s personal reflections and honesty about hardships bring a sensitivity and authenticity to human living when the ups and downs of life may not always make us sing with joy.
Although Hardyman takes time building up the momentum of his book’s main substance, it is precisely because of its strong foundation in the Bible’s redemptive story in Part 1 of the book that he is able to explore Christian living in a biblically-grounded and focused manner in Part 2. It keeps the Bible’s story, literally, at the forefront as you read the book. Though it might be tempting to skim through these first few chapters, I would encourage readers to take time soaking in the Bible overview and enjoying Hardyman’s cheerful and expressive style of writing, particularly seeing how he brings a Bible-lens to his everyday life, whether it’s in zooming down hills in Cambridge on his bike, or in his first job in a printing works making books.
Maximum Life is also particularly suited to reading together with friends. Hardyman helpfully provides Bible passages and discussion questions at the end of each chapter, which would work for personal reflection, but could also be discussed together with friends in a weekly book club-style arrangement. It also makes it easy to discuss your thoughts and reflections with others as you encourage each other to live maximum lives, all for the glory of God. Perhaps you could pick up a few copies of the book to read with friends from church, or for your Christian Union. It might be particularly helpful to read this with friends studying the same subject, or colleagues working in a similar job or industry. Discussion questions can easily be adapted to thinking about life or work in different contexts unique to different situations, whether it is about how to glorify God in the laboratory, or as a musician.
Overall, Maximum Life challenges and changes perspectives on work while breaking down the sacred-secular divide. It is good for deep thinking and reflection, but also keeps discussion light and realistic, not shying away from praising God in both the grand and the mundane of life. I would highly recommend picking it up and giving it a read, whether on your own or giving it as a present to read together with a friend!
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