The Cross-Shaped Live, Jeff Kennon. Abilene, TX: Leafwood Publishers, 2021.
Summary: A practical exploration of what it means to be made in the image of a God who died on the cross, to have the cross shape and form the way we live.
According to Jeff Kennon, two of my favorite books, The Crucifixion by Fleming Routledge and The Cross of Christ by John R. W. Stott, are among the very few books written in recent years on the cross. Given that the cross is so central to the Christian life, that observation alone is probably worth a book. What this book is about is what it means to “image” God, referring back to the Genesis 1. Kennon contends that God has shown us in the life of Christ, a life shaped by the cross. In fact, what Kennon proposes, using the language of Michael Gorman, is that we image God as our lives become cruciform, shaped by the cross of Christ.
The first four chapters of the book trace the story arc of scripture in terms of roots, ruin, rescue, and restoration. Roots focuses on humanity’s creation in the image of God. Ruin considers our exchange of living in the image of God for the false lure of becoming God, worshiping either ourselves or other things that become idols. Rescue talks about the God, who in Jesus gets his feet dirty, and endures the scandal of the cross, the great exchange of his life for ours. Restoration goes even deeper into the work of the cross, pointing to the reality that to understand what God is like is to understand that this is a God who empties God’s self and dies and we live like God, like Christ, when we live like that, rather than pretending to be gods. That is restoration.
In the next four chapters, Kennon identifies four qualities of the cruciform life. Humility is realizing that we are enough, that God has made us good, loves us, and we’ve nothing to prove. It’s not that we think less of ourselves but rather not thinking of ourselves any differently than we think of others. Service means life lived for others, just for their sake and not being in control. Obedience is saying “not my will” but devoting oneself to listening to Jesus and then doing what he says, even as he did the Father’s will. Obedience thus takes us into the depths of God’s heart. Sacrifice chooses what is best for another over what is best for ourselves.
Kennon supports each theme in the book from scripture and illustrates the key points in each chapter, both from history and his own life, in a straightforward fashion. He moves between Jürgen Moltmann and David Foster Wallace, between N. T. Wright and Jim Carrey as he draws out for us the story of the cross, and how to allow it to shape our lives.
This is a good book to be reading during Lent. All of us need to be reminded of what it means to deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Christ. It is also a good book to give either the person considering what it means to become a follower of Jesus or someone recently baptized who is just beginning the journey of being formed by Christ. In a church so distracted by the latest cultural crisis or scheme to make us successful, Kennon focuses on the good stuff of what it is like to be formed by the cross of Christ. In doing so, he doesn’t tell us what we want to hear, but what we desperately need. It’s truly the only way we’ll discover who we were meant to be.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.