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Book Review – Crazy Love by Francis Chan

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Title:  Crazy Love
Author: Francis Chan
Rating: It was OK

 

FeaturedContent-CrazyLoveThe book Crazy Love by Fancis Chan is about sanctification; or the process of becoming more and more set apart for God. The premise, as stated in the introduction, is that the answer to our religious complacency isn’t a list of dos and don’ts, but rather to fall in love with God. When we speak of things like spiritual growth, obedience, dos and don’ts, and complacency, we are speaking of the fruit of sanctification.

What I Liked

I agree wholeheartedly with the premise. As Paul tells us in Romans 8, law-keeping (dos and don’ts) is powerless to change the heart. However, we are also told in the same chapter and all through scripture that law keeping (doing) is the fruit of both justification and sanctification. Chan addresses this and also rightfully points out that it is understanding the gospel of Christ which produces that radical love within us. Chan is deeply concerned for these things as we all should be. His pastoral heart is evident as is his love for God. Chan really does appear to have a genuine love for the church (for the people of God), which is a rare thing these days.

What I Did Not Like

Unfortunately, rather than following Paul’s argument in the rest of Romans 8 to explain precisely what it is about the gospel that compels us to forsake sin and love God (union with Christ), Chan offers his own explanation – simply a realization that God radically loves us. Now to be sure, God certainly does love us with a radical love; and understanding our unworthiness and his unwavering love for us does compel us to live radically peculiar lives. However, this is not the reason scripture gives. Or perhaps better stated, it is not enough. We are compelled to love God not merely because he loves us but because he has loved us by uniting us with Christ. In nearly every instance in the epistles, when we are given a command, we are pointed away from the law as the means of accomplishing it and pointed toward union with Christ. We are IN Christ. Christ is IN us. We have been crucified WITH Christ. We have been buried WITH Christ, we have been raised WITH Christ. We are joint heirs WITH Christ. IN Christ, we have become the righteousness of God, we have his righteousness IMPUTED to us. God has made us accepted IN Christ.

Over and over again, the scriptures tie our sanctification not merely with God’s love for us, but specifically, His love for us as demonstrated in our union with Christ. So much so that as we do good works, they are accepted IN Christ and not on our own merit (Eph 1:6). In other words, when we do good works, even though they are accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections, God is pleased to accept and even reward what is sincere because God looks upon them IN Christ. This and this alone is how any effort of ours is acceptable to God as radical, sold out love for God. And this treasured doctrine is precisely what was missing from Chan’s pleading with us to live in such a way. Unfortunately, it is precisely that reason that scripture gives us for motivation to live radically sold out lives for Christ.

My only other disagreement with this book is the type of person who Chan praises and the type which he overlooks. To Chan, as is the case with so many Christians, he focuses on the spectacular rather than on the seemingly mundane. Not everyone is called to radically love God by selling all of their possessions and moving to the inner city or a developing country. Are those who do this living out radical love for God? Maybe. If it is done in Christ rather than in the flesh. What should we say then of the “ordinary” stay at home mom who sacrifices so many desires day in and day out in order to dedicate her life to her children’s discipleship? What should we say of the endless number of grandmothers who are spending their retirement years raising and training their grandchildren rather than traveling to exotic locations? Don’t these also fulfill the great commission? Making disciples in the home? What about the landscaper the lawyer, the pharmacist and the barista? Does their faithfulness count less than the missionary, the pastor or the evangelist? My point is that scripture is full of examples of faithful believers who live lives of radical obedience in rather ordinary surroundings.

Summary

To be fair, Chan does somewhat satisfactorily address the very real issue of lukewarm Christianity. However, I find his solution to be lacking. When Paul, in Romans 6 faced this very issue, his response was very revealing. Speaking to those who were lukewarm in their faith he asked, “What then shall we say? Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound?”

His answer was not to point them back to the law (do things more radically) but rather, to point them to their union with Christ: “Know ye not that so many of us as were baptized INTO Christ were baptized INTO his death? Therefore we are buried WITH him by baptism into death: that like AS CHRIST was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so WE ALSO should walk in newness of life. For if we have been PLANTED TOGETHER IN the likeness of his death, we shall be also IN the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified WITH him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
This is the reason scripture gives us to live radical (sanctified) lives. We are united with Christ. All other reasons, as true as they may be, should be secondary to this.

Also to be fair, Chan does point out (almost obligatorily) that one does not have to sell all and move to Africa and that a radical life can be lived in any vocation. However, it is an afterthought and certainly not where he spends a vast majority of his time. The truth is that God has always done radical things through ordinary people and most of the time within the boundaries of His covenant people. He does these things first of all in Christian homes and Christian churches. From there, as we see in the Great Commission, the sphere of influence grows to community, nation and beyond. And this is what is missing from Crazy Love- a call to living radical lives in the context of the home and church first, and secondarily, into the community, nation, and outermost parts of the earth as God so calls.