I grew up believing in God without having a clue what He is like. I called myself a Christian, was pretty involved in church, and tried to stay away from all the things that “good Christians” avoid-drinking, drugs, sex, swearing. Christianity was simple: fight your desires in order to please God. Whenever I failed (which was often), I’d walk around feeling guilty and distant from God. In hindsight, I don’t think my church’s teachings were incorrect, just incomplete. My view of God was narrow and small.
If you’ve never heard of Francis Chan or his story as a believer and pastor, I’d encourage you to look it up. He is a solid, traditional Christian pastor who is unwilling to settle for comfortable, traditional Christianity. For me Chan is one of the best pictures of a man of God seeking to do God’s will regardless of the consequences. This has meant starting churches, leaving ministry settings that are comfortable and well established, and being willing to step out in a direction that leads to a lot of unknowns with very few guarantees. I have been able to relate well to what Chan has done recently, and he has been an inspiration and example for my personal life.
Chan’s basic idea in Crazy Love is that we underestimate and under-appreciate God’s love for us. This is a message I have heard at various times from various teachers and authors, but Chan approaches it in a different way. Instead of focusing and rehashing “God loves you” over and over again for 170 pages, he clearly, personally and passionately lays out God’s overwhelming love and care for His people as He has displayed it through scripture. Chan then immediately builds off of that, pushing us to see how that powerful love should affect us.
The world needs Christians who don’t tolerate the complacency of their own lives.
Too often Christians talk a good game about God’s love and how we want to follow Him, but our lives don’t show it. We speak of having faith in God, following His guidance for our lives, and loving others, but then we react to situations in ways that are the least disruptive for our own lives as possible. We let our comfort, our desires, and our control get in the way of truly loving God and living a faith driven life for Him.
One of the biggest challenges I have felt from Chan’s teachings is in my relationship to others. I’m more of an introverted guy who likes to stick with a couple of people I’m comfortable with. I enjoy going deep in my study of the Bible and of faith-I love digging into biblical history and systematic theology. But Chan challenged me on a lot of how I went about that. I could say that relationships with others were important as much as I wanted, but if I didn’t live in a way that showed that other people were important to me, it wasn’t an honest statement. I could talk about personal discipleship and all of the Bible study I’ve done over a couple of decades of being a believer, but if I didn’t take Christ’s commands to love my neighbors as myself it was worthless. If I was not letting the powerful love of God flow out from me to others, I was not having the impact on my world that God intended for me.
Chan shared one of the most powerful stories I have ever heard. He talks about a gang member who, through Chan’s church, accepts Christ and turns away from the gang. He becomes an active member of the church initially, but after a few months his attendance drops off. Chan contacts him and asks him what is happening, and the answer is amazing. The man explains that in a gang, they are family and they act like a family, being a central part of each others lives and spending significant time with each other. The church said they were a family, but the reality was that they got together for a couple of hours every week then mostly avoided each other the rest of the time. How is that for love? Crazy Love continues to challenge me to stop living life by default, in a way that is standard and comfortable, and live like I truly believe in what the Bible teaches. There are few books I encourage believers to read ahead of this one, and I hope that others take up the call to live honest, passionate lives for God.
I wrote this book because much of our talk doesn’t match our lives. We say things like, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ and ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart.’ Then we live and plan like we don’t believe God even exists. We try to set our lives up so everything will be fine even if God doesn’t come through. But true faith means holding nothing back. It means putting every hope in God’s fidelity to His promises.
A friend of mine once said that Christians are like manure: spread them out and they help everything grow better, but keep them in one big pile and they stink horribly. Which are you? The kind that reeks, around which people walk a wide swath? Or the kind that trusts God enough to let Him spread you out-whether that means going outside your normal group of Christian friends, increasing your material giving, or using your time to serve others?