Sunday, February 13, 2011

Crazy Love

For the last number of months (five or so, I think), my house church has been reading and studying Francis Chan's book, "Crazy Love," together.  Just this last week, we finished it.  It's been (in my opinion) a really good thing for our house church to read and study like this together, and Crazy Love has been an ideal fit for us, since there is also a very affordable DVD curriculum available, with one 8-10 minute video for each chapter, and included discussion starters.

To be honest, I'm more excited about what studying together has done for our little house church, than I am about the actual content of the book.  Reading and studying together has stirred discussion, has brought out opinions from some of the quieter people, has inspired people to step up and agree to lead discussion, or to read and get involved.

The content of the book itself, didn't feel new to me.  That said, I read fairly widely, and have read several titles that challenge the reader to take the call of the gospels to follow Christ seriously.

There were two chapters I found particularly striking, however.

The first was chapter 4 - Profile of the Lukewarm.  It wasn't so much that the information was new, just that it was presented in a way that was a hard to ignore - a way that caused me to stop again and consider how I'm living, to stop and pray and ask the Lord what I need to be aware of.  Using the parable of the seeds and the sower, Chan cautions readers, "Do not assume you are good soil."  (pg. 67)  He goes on to list a number of characteristics of the lukewarm.  Characteristics like:

Lukewarm people give money to charity and to the 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.  After all, God loves a cheerful giver, right? (pg. 69)

Lukewarm people don't really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin.  They don't genuinely hate sin and aren't truly sorry for it; they're merely sorry because God is going to punish them.  Lukewarm people don't really believe that this new life Jesus offers is better than the old sinful one.  (pg. 70)

Lukewarm people love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves.  Their love of others is typically focused on those who love them in return, like family, friends, and other people they know and connect with.  There is little love left over for those who cannot love them back, much less for those who intentionally slight them, whose kids are better athletes than theirs, or with whom conversations are awkward or uncomfortable.  Their love is highly conditional and very selective and comes with strings attached.  (pg. 73)

Lukewarm people are continually concerned with playing it safe; they are slaves to the god of control.  This focus on safe living keeps them from sacrificing and risking for God. (pg. 77)

Lukewarm people do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to.  They don't have to trust God if something unexpected happens - they have their savings account.  They don't need God to help them - they have their retirement plan in place.  They don't genuinely seek out what life God would have them live - they have life figured and mapped out.  They don't depend on God on a daily basis - their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health.  The truth is, their lives wouldn't look much different if they suddenly stopped believing in God. (pg. 78)

Challenging, huh?

The other chapter (Chapter 8 - Profile of the Obsessed) that caught me did so for much the same reasons.  Instead of profiling the lukewarm, it profiles the one who is obsessed with Christ, and includes statements like these:

People who are obsessed with Jesus aren't consumed with their personal safety and comfort above all else.  Obsessed people care more about God's kingdom coming to this earth than their own lives being shielded from pain or distress. (pg. 133)

People who are obsessed with Jesus live lives that connect them with the poor in some way or another.  Obsessed people believe that Jesus talked about money and the poor so often because it was really important to Him (1 John 2:4-6; Matt. 16:24-26). (pg. 135)

Obsessed people are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo. (pg. 136)

People who are obsessed are raw with God; they do not attempt to mask the ugliness of their sins or their failures.  Obsessed people don't put it on for God; He is their safe place, where they can be at peace. (pg. 144)

A person who is obsessed with Jesus is more concerned with his or her character than comfort.  Obsessed people know that true joy doesn't depend on circumstances or environment; it is a gift that must be chosen and cultivated, a gift that ultimately comes from God (James 1:2-4). (pg. 146)

I read this second chapter the same week I was challenged by some stories of people in real life who really were learning what it meant to live obsessed - to not be certain of safety or comforts, to live in obedience.  The combination of Chan's words and these stories I'd encountered was powerful and convicting.

All in all, I'd say Crazy Love is very much worth the read.  Yes, it didn't have a lot that was brand new material, but Chan's heart is sincere, his words are challenging, and for me, anyway, God used this book to challenge how I think about my life and faith and how that gets lived out.