Saturday, August 22, 2009

"Death by Love: Letters from the Cross"

Death by Love: Letters from the Cross by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears

The book arrived by mail during Holy Week this year and so, fittingly, I began to read it on Good Friday. Each of twelve chapters illustrates a truth about what Jesus accomplished on the cross: victory, redemption, sacrifice, gift of redemption, justification, propitiation, expiation, atonement, ransom, exemplar, reconciliation and revelation.

Each chapter tells the story of a traumatic event that changed one person’s life. These are reflected in chapter titles such as, “Demons are Tormenting Me,” “My Wife Slept with my Friend,” “I Molested a Child,” “My Daddy is a Pastor,” “My Wife has a Brain Tumor.” The story is brief, outlining what happened and how it has affected the person’s life.

Following each story is a pastoral letter by Mark Driscoll, looking at the person’s pain and/or sin through the lens of the Cross. Each letter uses the person’s story to highlight and explain what Jesus can be for that person in their need. The pastor holds no punches, confronting sin with direct and honest candidness and addressing the spiritual problem behind the pain with such statements as:

“As a new Christian, you possessed the raw masculine integrity that so many docile, neutered church guys have had pressed out of them under the weight of trying to be cheery in the hideous name of pleasantness, as if Jesus himself was little more than a well-medicated greeter at Wal-Mart. P. 74/75

“...your dream came true through the horror you always feared.”

“...because of Jesus’ finished work on the cross, God is not condemning us with suffering but will use suffering to sanctify us through affliction and make us more like Jesus, who ‘learned obedience through what he suffered.”

“I prayed with one of the sons, asking God to either bring their father to repentance or pour out his wrath on the man as an example. Within days, the father died of an unexplained, sudden explosion of his heart.”

“Your identity must be marked only by what Jesus Christ has done for you and no longer by what has been done by or to you.”

“Your father failed to defend you as a young woman. ...he did not know you well enough to see that you were hurting and needed your daddy.”

“When we can’t or don’t do anything about the hurt, the initial anger settles into bitterness, an intense resentment marked by animosity, hatred, cynicism, and contempt. It is cold, raw, destructive misery.” P. 220

“The theology of the cross seeks to know God through the seeming weakness, folly, failure and shame of the crucified Jesus. The theology of glory seeks to use God to avoid suffering, hardship, pain, shame, loss, and failure. The theology of the cross seeks to see suffering, hardship, pain, shame, loss and failure as opportunities to grow in an understanding, appreciation and emulation of the crucified Jesus.... The theology of the cross seeks Jesus, even if that should mean experiencing pain and poverty like Jesus.”

Following each letter, Gerry Breashears answers “common questions” about the theology in Mark Driscoll’s letters such as:

“All this talk of blood is gross. Why do we have to do that?”

“This sounds extremely judgmental. Didn’t Jesus say, ‘Judge not”?

“If God wants to forgive, why doesn’t he just do it?”

“How could God be good and still allow Jesus to suffer on the cross?”

As I identified with some of the stories told, I was blessed by the pastoral letters, which acknowledged the wrongs done to me as true injustices and gave me hope for healing because of the cross. Be prepared to have your perspectives changed.

Return to Non-fiction Read in 2009

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