Book Review: Randy Harris’ “Life Work: Confessions of an Everyday Disciple”

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Life Work comes on the heels of Harris’ previous works, “God Work” and “Soul Work.” Just as “God Work” was wonderfully helpful in connecting our theology to the local church context, and “Soul Work” aptly invited Christians to dwell with God through spiritual disciplines, now “Life Work” provides a framework for building a way of living rooted in honest discipleship.

Harris ultimately wants to convince his readers that they should live out an ethic that is formed by scripture and Jesus, but he smartly begins his book with a broader understanding of how ethics are formed by worldviews, ethical theories, principles, and questions. He provides the construction of this outline in order to help his readers understand how their existing life ethic has been formed. These first few chapters make perfect sense to the logical, analytical thinker.

The only glitch in the process is that while Harris admits to trying to convince his readers that the ethical stance to which he holds is the biblical (and best) way, one of the seven major tenets of his pluralistic deontologist way is autonomy, or the practice of respecting others’ decisions. One might think that the principle of autonomy could preclude the persuasive argument of declaring one ethical system to be the best. Nevertheless, Harris uses his conversational writing style, dotted with intriguing ethical questions and humorous stories, to walk the reader through a process of thinking through her life ethic. Somewhere in those first few chapters what the reader knew in her gut to be good and decent becomes solidified in logic and conviction.

Having established a theoretical minimally decent ethic, Harris then asks how Jesus might practically shape that ethic for His disciples. Harris injects cross-shaped principles into that ethic which turn the power structures of the world upside down. Through stories and everyday examples, Harris invites the reader to join Jesus and his community of followers to not just treat others decently, but go out of their way to bring God’s love and light into the lives of others. Moreover, Harris challenges Jesus followers to not remain stagnant in their practice of this way of living, but to be continuously maturing into non-anxious presences in the world. To that end Harris offers rich, practical strategies from other followers of The Way, that will help lead to a full and enduring peaceful life.

This book is a gem for honest thinkers who are struggling with pairing up their understanding of Jesus’ teachings with their day to day way of living. Harris uses his typical dry humor and transparency to open up the hearts of believers, before helping them to see the all too often incongruity between the claim of following Jesus and actually submitting to the Sermon on the Mount. The reader who doesn’t want to think deeply about his own discipleship and is content in not maturing in the ways of Jesus should probably stay away from this book, because once you crack this book, you can’t help but be challenged to take following Jesus more seriously.

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Eric Livingston is the Community Life Minister at the Otter Creek Church of Christ. He is passionate about helping followers of Jesus share life together in ways that make the Kingdom of God on earth just a little bit easier to see. Eric enjoys making his wife, Dixie, laugh and playing outside with his three children. He and his family have the great pleasure of rooting for the best team in basketball, the San Antonio Spurs.

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