Randy Harris’s latest, Life Work, just made it to my “Must Read” shelf on Goodreads, I’ve preordered copies for my church, and already purchased another copy in Kindle format to make sure I have it in my travels. For me, this was quite a timely read. I had just been to one of the largest bookstores in the world a few weeks ago looking for something on ethics from a Christian worldview, a daunting task when things are loosely categorized and you only have an hour or so to browse, and came out empty handed. I’ve been taking my brothers and sisters on a journey through political theology—how we as citizens of the Kingdom of God engage with those within and those outside—and have reached a point that begins to deal with our immediate context. Life Work fits right in (if only I could get enough advanced copies without waiting until summer!), saving me the time it would have taken to pull together (likely not as well) similar information and more.
Randy is a professor of philosophy and ethics at Abilene Christian University, and his writing is representative of one who thinks about and spends a lot of time with students—he mentions them quite often; but his latest work is not written for readers of a certain age or stage in life. Life Work is easily accessible for non-academics but not so fluffy as to be uninteresting by those wanting a bit more, and its application is far reaching. Beginning with four major ethics, Randy encourages and discourages certain ways of thinking from a Christian worldview for judging between right and wrong and offers a bit of his own ethic without trying to force the reader into one or the other. I recommend the reader take time with this first section before moving on, really thinking about one’s own ethic and if or how it may be altered in some way. The second section describes in more detail what a cruciform life—one of taking up one’s cross and following Christ—looks like as a Christian ethic is applied. This is a counterintuitive and subversive ethic that goes against the leaning and pushing of the world. Looking at Scripture from the perspective of first-century Christians, Randy convincingly offers interpretations of a few passages—those often looked at differently—as claiming Jesus Christ is King, not Caesar/Rome, and what that looks like in the way we live. The final third of the book looks at the lives of people past and present who have lived and are living lives that in some way express the way of the cross, noting a few things he would and would not recommend imitating but considers their lives worth looking at nonetheless. Randy concludes his book with a bit more on peacemaking and shalom.
Randy and I hold much in common, but perhaps have just as much not so. I always enjoy and appreciate his perspective even when we don’t agree, and it’s always challenging. In fact, Randy admits he doesn’t even live up to his own words and challenges, something I think we can and should all admit. Life Work was not only a timely read and a fit for some teaching material, but it also challenged me and made me rethink my own ethic and how that affects my cruciform living. It reignited and reaffirmed old and new passions and encouraged me to think more pragmatically than I may have been, something I’ve been working through for some time.
Lastly, which should probably mentioned first in any other review, Life Work: Confessions of an Everyday Disciple is the end of a trilogy, the first two being Soul Work: Confessions of a Part-Time Monk and God Work: Confessions of a Standup Theologian. Since I have not read the first two and find Life Work wonderfully applicable without precursors, I still highly recommend picking up a copy even if the others have yet to be read. I’m sot sure if I’ll be getting to the others anytime soon, but feel free to let me know if readers of this review have read them and would like to offer their thoughts! Now, go pre-order your copy of Life Work right now!
*Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from ACU Press/Leafwood Publishers as part of their ACU Press Bookclub Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”