Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Crazy Love: A Book Review

God is Love
My friend Rachel Swanson recommended a little book to me at Christmas time, Crazy Love, by Francis Chan.  I socked the name away and when Santa came through with some Barnes and Noble cards, I bought it.  I was almost sorry.

The first chapter asks the reader to stop praying and take a moment to think of God.  The premise of the entire book is that if we had a realistic vision of God we'd stand mouth-open stunned by His majesty.  We'd approach His throne with more trepidation.  We'd fall crazy in love with Him, and we'd follow Him from the heart.  So far so good!  

In the next several chapters Chan asks two troubling questions.  First what does a lukewarm Christian look like?  Second, is there any such thing? 

He answers the first by stating that a lukewarm Christian would be one who identifies himself as a Christian but does not love God enough to obey Him.  Then he pairs a verse to be obeyed with a description of how a lukewarm person lives. For example, "Lukewarm people give money to charity and to the church as long as it doesn't impinge on their standard of living.  If they have a little extra and it is easy and safe to give, they do so." Later in the same chapter he says, "Lukewarm people gauge their morality or "goodness" by comparing themselves to the secular world."  In other words, lukewarm Christians, Chan says, transform Jesus's teaching on giving or morality into some tepid imitation. Straight from difficult to doable. 

I was abashed. It was easy enough to read my own sin and smug self-righteousness into the chapter. We've always given when the plate passed, but we never gave any money that hurt us. I've looked around too many times to count and judged myself based on the people I see not the God who loves me. About halfway through the chapter I put the book down and told my husband that I couldn't read anymore tonight.  We were guests in another's home and there was no private place to weep.

Chan's second question struck as hard as the first.  Is there any such thing as a lukewarm Christian? Chan concludes no. Lukewarm Christians are repulsive to Jesus.  He wants to spit them out.  Lukewarm Christianity is an illusion. Stumbling along, culturally and half-heartedly following Jesus is nothing more than self-deception.  Either we whole-heartedly love God or we don't.  And if we don't our actions will make it abundantly clear.  

Chan's book was heartbreaking.  Rather than demand a new and harder law-keeping, he convicted me with the idea that a lack of obedience was simply a symptom of a pale and lifeless love. 

I wanted to argue with him.  I wanted to say, "What about grace?" But that little question was the hardest of all.  If a renewed vision of God would daunt me in prayer, a renewed vision of grace should reinvigorate my love.  Nothing I give could measure up against the gift of the precious Son of God for my sin. And every casual shrug I aimed in God's direction, taking his words less seriously than I should, was a direct affront to the abundant gift of grace He pours every day into my life. 

I don't know if I want to tell you to read the book.  It broke me.  I've not read the Bible the same light since.  I see my sin staring up at me from each page.  I read the sermon on the mount and was overcome. I'll tell you more about that in next week's post. I think the book should come with a warning label.  Take in small doses.  May cause stomach pain.  Will break and heal a heart alternatively when taken in conjunction with the word of God.  Side-effects: radical change and crazy love. 
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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