From the very beginning of their book Death by Love: Letters from the Cross, authors Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears are clear about what they hope to accomplish:
Our approach is an effort to show that there is no such thing as Christian community or Christian ministry apart from a rigorous theology of the cross that is practically applied to the lives of real people.
In fact, it is real people and their very real stories that provide the framework for this compelling look at the atoning work of the cross. Each chapter begins with a story of a actual person, someone Driscoll knows personally, be it a member of his Mars Hill church in Seattle or his own young son. After briefly describing each person and their specific situation, Driscoll then follows with a letter to that individual “explaining one side of the great jewel of the cross so that the person and work of work Jesus are made intensely practical for that person’s life.” Each chapter concludes with a series of questions and answers written by Breshears in order to provide additional insight to the particular topic.
No theological shortcuts here; Driscoll addresses the atonement of Christ with both the conviction of a preacher as well as the heart of a pastor. Well known for his bluntness, he pulls no punches in his description of sin and his call for repentance. Though he speaks plainly, he also speaks with love. Do not think since this is a theological book that it is somehow unreadable and difficult to understand by the average layperson. Quite the opposite!
Some of the situations described are heartbreaking and therefore difficult and somewhat unsettling to read, but in his candor Driscoll affirms his belief that the cross is the path to victory no matter how desperate the situation. This is, I think, the strength of the book–the real life application of real life theology to a real life situation. Useless platitudes and feel good maxims are absent and instead we find Biblical exhortation to look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Some topics addressed include:
“Demons Are Tormenting Me”: Jesus Is Katie’s Christus Victor
“Lust Is My God”: Jesus Is Thomas’s Redemption
“My Wife Slept with My Friend”: Jesus is Luke’s New Covenant Sacrifice
“I Molested a Child”: Jesus Is John’s Justification
“My Dad Used to Beat Me”: Jesus Is Bill’s Propitiation
“I Want to Know God”: Jesus Is Susan’s Revelation
I’ll admit it: I’m a wimp. To think of the cross and all its bloody horror is, well, horrifying to me. In reading this book, I was reminded that the horror of the cross is horrible because it reflects the price paid for my sin; yet in His death Jesus reveals to me the love of God! “But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)
I was humbled by this book. I was convicted, I was shamed, but mostly, I was moved to worship as I pondered the amazing grace of the cross of Christ.