Monday, September 10, 2012

Book Review: Crazy Love

Crazy Love is an impassioned plea to the church to step up to the mark. Pastor Francis Chan identifies that something isn't right in the way we live and love and do church. The answer? Crazy Love.

Early on, Chan presents the problem:

'We all know something's wrong. At first I thought it was just me. Then I stood before twenty thousand Christian college students and asked, "How many of you have read the New Testament and wondered if we in the church are missing it?" When almost every hand went up, I felt comforted. At least I'm not crazy.' (p. 17)

What is it we're missing?

'I get nervous when I think of how we've missed who we are supposed to be, and sad when I think about how we're missing out on all that God wants for the people He loved enough to die for.' (p. 18)

'This book is written for those who want more Jesus. It is for those who are bored with what American Christianity offers. It if for those who don't want to plateau, those who would rather die before their convictions do.' (p. 19)

'The core problem isn't the fact that we're lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is why we are this way, and it is because we have an inaccurate view of God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way. We forget that God never had an identity crisis. He knows that He's great and deserves to be the center of our lives.' (p. 20)

The answer?

'I believe He wants us to love others so much that we go to extremes to help them. I believe He wants us to be known for giving - of our time, our money, and our abilities - and to start a movement of "giving" churches. In so doing, we can alleviate the suffering in the world and change the reputation of His bride in America. Some people, even at my church, have told me flat-out, "You're crazy." But I can't imagine devoting my life to a greater vision.' (p. 19)

Chan directs us to consider God's greatness and power displayed in creation - all for his glory. 'The appropriate way to end this chapter is the same way we began it - by standing in awed silence before a mighty, fearsome God, whose tremendous worth becomes even more apparent as we see our own puny selves in comparison.' (p. 36)

Our common behaviours of worry and stress 'communicate that it's okay to sin and not trust God because the stuff in my life is somehow exceptional.' (p. 40). His analysis of the human condition at this point is penetrating and hard-hitting. The remedy is to turn around: 'The point of your life is to point to Him.' ((p. 42) Again, 'we need to stop living selfish lives, forgetful of our God.' (p. 49)

Very briefly, Chan points out the love of God: 'I don't think I'm the only person who has misunderstood God's love. Most of us, to some degree, have a difficult time understanding, believing, or accepting God's absolute and unlimited love for us.' (p. 51) However, it seems that he doesn't take much time or effort to spell out that love for us; there is no mention of the cross as the display of God's love; he very quickly jumps to our love for God. But our love is only ever as a response to God's love for us - so if there's no explicit foundation of God's love laid down, then we can't really properly respond - it's as if our feelings are being manufactured or cajoled, rather than flowing naturally from a warmed up heart as we see the objective display of love in the cross of the Lord Jesus.

The remainder of the book then concentrates on our love for God - an important theme, certainly, but again, without the proper sequence of our response to His love. 'There has to be more to our faith than friendliness, politeness, and even kindness.' (p. 128) 'So within this command to love God... every fiber of humanity is addressed. our goal as people who follow Christ should be no less than becoming people who are madly in love with God.' (p. 140)

Chan's desire is for the reader to be changed as a result of reading the book. To no longer be complacent, comfortable in the regular routine: 'What I can say is that you must learn to listen to and obey God, especially in a society where it's easy and expected to do what is most comfortable.' (p. 166) His closing paragraph is a stirring call to action:

'Now close this book. Get on your knees before our holy, loving God. And then live the life with your family, parents, spouse, children, neighbors, enemies, and strangers that He has created and empowered you through the Holy Spirit to live.' (p. 172) [It should also be noted that this book nicely sets up for his next book, Forgotten God, on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.]

One of the most helpful chapters was a series of profiles of ordinary people who are living this 'crazy love' kind of life, loving and serving in extraordinary ways.

It's a book for the young, media savvy, web generation - at one point early on, the reader is directed to stop reading and go and watch a video online. Perhaps that video filled in the bits I thought were lacking in the book, but as I was halfway across the world with no internet, I didn't watch the video.

All in all, the thing I'll take away from the book is Chan's passion for us to be awakened to love. However without the adequate exposition of God's love for us as the basis of our love, the call may just be a little crazy.

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