The cruciform life is cross-shaped. It is shaped by the cross into the shape of the cross. The cross, representing the life, death, and resurrected life of Jesus as He is offered in the gospel, is the soul-shaping core of the disciple’s existence. When the gospel is “of first importance” to you and “Christ is formed in you” (1 Corinthians 15, Galatians 4:19) then your life takes on the shape of the cross: you begin to live the vertical life of loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and you begin to live the horizontal life of loving your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:36-40).
The cruciform life is a life. It is a way of being alive and doing life in the place God has planted you. It is not a program. It does not offer tips and techniques. It is not something you do only on Sundays. The cruciform life is a day-in-day-out lifestyle of gospel-driven love for God and others.
The cruciform life is faith in Jesus Christ expressing itself through love for God and others (Galatians 5:6). No matter where we are in our various spheres of influence we live a life that shows that Love Is Faith’s Expression.
The cruciform life is the life of Jesus taking shape in us (Galatians 4:19, Colossians 1:27, Galatians 2:20). Each disciple, as s/he becomes more and more conformed to the image of Christ, will live as a Son and love as a Servant in his or her personal spheres of influence in increasing measure (2 Corinthians 3:18, 10:13-18):
Son*: Like Jesus, the cruciform disciple will live in constant awareness of and dependence upon his or her relationship to God as His beloved (Matthew 3:16-17; John 15:9-10; Romans 8:14-17; 1 John 3:1-3; Romans 5:5b-11; Galatians 2:19-20).
Servant: Like Jesus, the cruciform disciple will live in constant awareness and practice of his or her role as bond servant by being emptied for the sake of others to the glory of God (Matthew 10:24-25; Mark 10:42-45; Luke 6:40; John 13:3-5, 14-16, 20:21; Philippians 2:5-11; Galatians 2:19-20; 2 Corinthians 5:14-15) in the following roles:
- In relationship to God, the servant is a Seeker: one who exalts God by seeking first the Lord, His Kingdom, and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33; Psalm 24:3-6, 27, 34:8-10, 63:1, 105:3-4, 119:2, 10; Proverbs 2:1-5; Daniel 9:3; Jeremiah 29:13-14; Hosea 3:5; Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:5-13; Acts 17:26-27; Galatians 1:10; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 11:6, 8-16, 13:14).
- In relationship to other people who are also disciples, the servant is a Shepherd: one who encourages his or her brothers and sisters in Christ as s/he loves and labors with them for the sake of the Kingdom (Luke 6:12-19; John 10:1-18, 15:12-19, 21:15-17; Acts 2:42-47, 4:32; Romans 1:11-12; Ephesians 5:18-21; Colossians 1:28-29, 3:12-16; 2 Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 3:12-13, 10:19-25).
- In relationship to other people who are not disciples, the servant is a Sower: one who engages neighbors, nations, and the next generation with the love of Christ by sowing the good news of the Kingdom into his or her Personal Mission Field through works of service and witness (Genesis 1:26-28; Isaiah 58:10-12; Psalm 80; Matthew 9:35-38, 13:1-43, 28:18-20; Mark 4:26-32; John 4:31-38; Romans 1:13-17; 2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Acts 1:8; Galatians 5:6b, 6:8-10; James 3:18).
- In relationship to all that God has made, the servant is a Steward: one who is continually equipped by God’s Word to use the resources (body, time, talent, treasure, truth, words, work, creation and relationships) God has given to him or her for the advancement of the Kingdom (Ezra 7:10; Mark 14:36; John 17:4; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, 10:31; Ephesians 4:11-16, 5:15-17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 1 Peter 4:10-11; Colossians 3:17, 23-24; Hebrews 5:8).
*See Galatians 3:26-29 where both men and women are said to be “sons of God.” An adopted son in Paul’s day was a full heir while adopted daughters were not. In Christ, both men and women are full heirs and are therefore called “sons.”
[My thanks to Chuck DeBardeleben for teaching me about living the cruciform life, to T. M. Moore for encouraging me to develop it and write it down, and to my wife Christine for showing me what it looks like on a day-to-day basis.]