Book Review: Crazy Love (Francis Chan)
I really like Francis Chan. I first heard him speak at an event for 3000 young people. His sincere love for Jesus and for Jesus’ sheep came across in every sermon. Francis’ blog posts have also been encouraging and challenging to me, and I am thrilled that he has recently released Erasing Hell which I hope to review someday soon on this blog.
Crazy Love is written to Christians, but it is a book meant to challenge Christians just as Paul did the Corinthians: …examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). Francis writes in the tradition of A.W. Tozer (quotes him a lot), and like Tozer, he speaks prophetically to the church. In Chapter four, “Profile of the Lukewarm,” he offers brief descriptions of what a lukewarm Christian life looks like, each of which is followed by a gospel reference that speaks to that particular condition.
This is a biblically rooted call to not just “accept the gospel” as so much modern evangelism calls us to, but to “follow Jesus.” Francis writes in chapter five, “Serving Leftovers to a Holy God”…
Hear me clearly in this, because it is vital—in fact, there is nothing more important or eternal: Are you willing to say to God that He can have whatever he wants? Do you believe that wholehearted commitment to Him is more important than any other thing or person in your life? Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made?
If the answer to those questions is yes, then let your bet match your talk. True faith means holding nothing back; it bets everything on the hope of eternity.
I know that this whole swimming-upstream, pursuing-Christ, taking-up-your-cross, counting-the-cost thing isn’t easy. It’s so hard, in fact, that Jesus said the road is narrow and few will actually find it… and fewer still among those who are ric. Like the parable of the sower, don’t assume you are the good soil; don’t assume you are one of the few on the narrow way. (p. 97-98)
The diagnosis of spiritual lukewarmness in Crazy Love is often tied with the symptom of how American Christians are handling their wealth. Chapter seven, “Your Best Life Later” challenges the true believer to use his money, time and resources to “spend himself” for Christ. We do this as we see those around us as Jesus (based on Matthew 25:37-45) and serve them in love. Francis wants us to see that the wealth we have been given by God is not just so that we can say, “thank you, God” and then use it for our pleasure. It is to be used to alleviate poverty and suffering; to serve others in the name of Christ.
All of this Francis enjoins on us not out of duty, but out of love for Jesus, love that is so radical in the world’s eyes that it is seen as “crazy love.”
This book will make you uncomfortable because it forces you to deal with the hard sayings of Jesus and the rest of the Bible. Following Jesus is a call to die to ourselves and to love God above everything else. This is a biblical message.
My one disappointment with the book is that while challenging us to examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith, and while using the scalpel of the Word of God to cut away at the hypocrisy and lukewarmness that may be infecting our souls, Francis fails to apply the healing balm of the gospel. I am a firm believer in challenging and questioning those with a false profession of faith who are under the illusion that they are OK because they believe the right things, but who don’t follow Jesus. But if I am going to make that challenge, I also need to point that person to the gospel which covers our lukewarmness and all our sin and takes it away, empowering us to live like Jesus challenged us to live because it is his life we are living.
I know that Francis believes and preaches this gospel. I just would have liked to see more of it in the book. We do not become passionate, radical, sold-out-for-Jesus Christians by feeling guilty that we aren’t giving enough of our time or money. The fuel of the Christian’s commitment to his Savior is the joy that the gospel brings, not just from the fact that we are forgiven, but also in knowing that our imperfect obedience in this life is covered by the blood of Jesus. Francis wants us to serve Jesus out of love, but I think he doesn’t give enough weight to that which most moves us to love Jesus more: seeing and experiencing what he did for us on the cross.
Another reason that the gospel needs to be included in any challenge to radical Christianity is that we will never be radical enough in our obedience to Jesus. Perfect obedience is unattainable as long as we struggle with indwelling sin–as we grown waiting for the redemption of our bodies. Ironically, even as Jesus’ gospel challenges us to a total, radical commitment to him, it also forgives us when we fail to live up to that commitment. In a recent interview, Sandra McCracken (more on her in a later post) had this to say about our failures in the area of social justice:
As a follower of Jesus, social justice is something I am called to do perfectly. I fail. But Jesus has accomplished social justice on my behalf. This reality, like a new birth, liberates me to engage with my neighbours in mercy and humility. In the words of John Bunyan, “Run and work, the law demands. But gives me neither feet nor hands. A better song the Gospel sings, It bids me fly, and gives me wings.”
Knowing that our imperfect obedience is atoned for is not an excuse to ignore the challenges that Jesus gave us to leave everything, take up our cross and follow him—challenges that Francis Chan rightly repeats to us in this generation. We need to be seeing progress in our lives, a growing Christlikeness that affects our wallets as well as our words. As I recently showed in my post on Romans 8:5-9, there is no such thing as a “carnal Christian.” May we, the children of God, in faith aspire to the radical, crazy love that Francis calls us to, and when we don’t see it in our lives, let us cry out to God in repentance and ask him to strengthen and grow that crazy love in us more and more by the power of his shed blood on the cross.