Children of the Father: Cruciform Love

There are lots of options available to us when we start to ask the question, “What does it look like to faithfully live a life of following Jesus?”

I keep coming back to the cross.

Love is a huge category, and a good claim can be made for “love” as the defining marker of the Christian person or community.

But love is also a category amenable to all sorts of content. And in the Christian story, love is made known when the Father does not spare his own son but delivers him up for us all.

And, love is made known when the son so loves the world that he gives himself to the humbling of incarnation and the ultimate humiliation of death–so that we might live.

In biblical parlance, to be a son of someone is to be like that person. The son of righteousness is a righteous person. The son of man is a human being.

What does it mean to be a child of God? It is to live a life of sacrificial love that is most concretely displayed on the cross:

Therefore, imitate God like dearly loved children. Live your life with love, following the example of Christ, who loved us and gave himself for us. (Ephesians 5:1, CEB)

Imitation of God entails imitation of the Christ who, in love, gave himself so that we might live.

I see an overtone of this even in Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. What does it look like to love as God loves? It’s to love even in the face of persecution–to love the enemy and pray for him or her:

I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete. (Matthew 5:44-48)

The love of God is shown in an indiscriminate showering of blessing. But, importantly, that means as well that the love of God overcomes resistance and persecution.

It is a love that turns the other cheek–exposing us to more shame.

It is a love that goes two miles rather than one–giving ourselves over to the enemy who would impress us for his own good.

This is the way of the cross. This is cruciform love.

4 thoughts on “Children of the Father: Cruciform Love”

  1. I personally am attracted to the LOVE of which Paul writes in 1Corinthians 13 which assumes that while we might do all manner of seemingly Godly activities including martyrdom, if we do not humble ourselves and love within the community of faith then we are noisy nothings.
    I think the cruciform love is most articulated within the community of faith. I personally have an easier time with loving some of my enemies than the people with whom i have to live.

  2. Daniel,

    I think my favorite writings from you are when you focus on the cross. I remember I used to drive home from your class constantly musing on the cross (because of your illumination of it in lectures) in relation to my mom’s death (for reasons we’ve discussed). Tears formed on every drive down the I-5 blurring my vision.

    I recently re-read “Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and was so struck by the images of Alsan being tormented. Maybe because I have mini lions at home, I somehow relate to the persecution of Christ in the image of animal more than I do when I think of him on a cross in human form. Regardless, I am again awestruck by the cross.

    I suggest you write a book on the cross and have that magnificent photo of your kids dwarfed by that humungous cross as the book cover. And I would write it more for the lay person than the academic. Your non-academic prose and personal narrative is equally as effective as your academic discourse and there is a need for this type of literature from scholarly people.

    And on a personal note, I was mourning a moment of missing the mark and having a hard time forgiving myself recently when suddenly I felt this Presence at my side literally saying, “Why do you think I went to the cross?”

  3. Great points. But, the harder question is “what does a cruciform life look like?” We have two revealed to us in Jesus and Paul. Their lives were downwardly mobile (not upwardly mobile – as in the church). Their lives were deeply, concretely sacrificial (as opposed to a nebulous, “I’m giving God my whole life” – which can mean anything). How radical do we get? How do you see this playing out practically?

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