Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Review)

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society by Eugene Peterson (1932-2018) was a wonderful read. First published in 1980, the book still speaks today. 200 pages of quotable Peterson. This book takes the Psalms of Ascent and begins his masterpiece The Message with devotional fervor. 

This is the blurb from Amazon, 

Since Eugene Peterson first wrote this spiritual formation classic nearly forty years ago, hundreds of thousands of Christians have been inspired by its call to deeper discipleship. As a society, we are still obsessed with the immediate; new technologies have only intensified our quest for the quick fix. But Peterson's time-tested prescription for discipleship remains the same―a long obedience in the same direction.

Following Jesus in this way requires a deepening life of prayer, and throughout history Christians have learned to pray from the Psalms. Peterson finds encouragement for today's pilgrims in the Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120-134), sung by travelers on their way to worship in Jerusalem. With his prophetic and pastoral wisdom, Peterson shows how the psalms teach us to grow in worship, service, joy, work, happiness, humility, community, and blessing.

This special commemorative edition of A Long Obedience in the Same Direction includes a new preface taken from Leif Peterson's eulogy at his father's memorial service.

J.I. Packer said of the book, 

"Eugene Peterson's special gift is to stand beside us and keep our feet on the ground as he lifts our hearts to God and our minds to godliness. A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, which does this stunningly well, is also the best pathway into the Psalter you are likely to find. If, like me for twenty years, you find it hard to get into the Psalms, that is another reason to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this brilliant book."


  • God loves you. He’s on your side. He’s coming after you. He’s relentless.
  • We know that the spiritual atmosphere in which we live erodes faith, dissipates hope and corrupts love, but it is hard to put our finger on what is wrong.
  • Many claim to have been born again, but the evidence for mature Christian discipleship is slim.
  • Religion in our time has been captured by the tourist mindset.
  • An excellent way to test people’s values is to observe what we do when we don’t have to do anything, how we spend our leisure time, how we spend our extra money.
  • Feelings are great liars. If Christians worshiped only when they felt like it, there would be precious little worship. Feelings are important in many areas but completely unreliable in matters of faith.
  • We live in a nation of complainers and a society of addicts. Everywhere we turn we hear complaints:
  • The reason many of us do not ardently believe in the gospel is that we have never given it a rigorous testing, thrown our hard questions at it, faced it with our most prickly doubts.
  • Christians are not fussy moralists who cluck their tongues over a world going to hell; Christians are people who praise the God who is on our side.
  • Christians are not pious pretenders in the midst of a decadent culture; Christians are robust witnesses to the God who is our help.
  • Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship, it is a consequence.
  • Too much of the world’s happiness depends on taking from one to satisfy another.
  • Christian faith needs continuous maintenance.
  • "Those who yield themselves up to the influence of ambition will soon lose themselves in a labyrinth of perplexity." - John Calvin
Sometimes Peterson was hard to follow. For example, I am not sure I understood his view of the ease of being a Christian. He argues that it is easier to be a Christian than not. Being a Christian seems hard. I know that God made rules for our good. But my nature runs counter to them. Peterson also argues that the church can solve poverty. Jesus said we will always have the poor (Mt. 26:11). Regardless of those two issues, it is worth another read by me.