Francis Chan is a provocative God-lover who seems to think about only one thing: God. And he seems to know me, that is, he knows how I think. He’s knows himself so well and, thus, knows human nature, that at many times while reading this book I discovered that he had already anticipated my thoughts, my rationalizations, my deference to ambivalence, my dismissals of idealism --- that is, he’s authentic and right on target. In other words, he’s a pain in the. . . well, you know what I mean.
Until recently the pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, Chan is the real deal. A popular pastor of this megachurch and best-selling author, a profile in Christianity Today recently notes that in contrast to many of his ilk, he lives very modestly in a tract home in a down and out area of Simi Valley, and he gives away 90% of his income. He what? And he is leaving this successful church for what? (He doesn’t know yet.) Doesn’t this make you want to read on?
Crazy Love, subtitled Overwhelmed By a Relentless God, is a call to a radical obedience to God motivated not by fear or guilt but by love. Chan tells us that we need to run to God because He is all that matters or, at least, nothing else matters except in the light of what He says. It is a call to take Scripture at face value, trust God, and do what it says. For too long, he says, the Church has rationalized and excused the dramatic claims God makes on our lives. When Jesus tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us, He means it.
He asks hard questions. Like “why do I drive the car that I drive?” Or “why do I live in the house in which I live?” And yet he asks them not to produce a guilt-driven charity or even asceticism, but as a way of helping us examine ourself. I appreciate his deep perception of human nature. I love his rich use of Scripture. I envy his love of God. I am glad he gives us the freedom to respond to a loving God without making his experience a principle for our lives. I read Rich Christian in a World of Hunger and just came away full of statistics and laden with guilt; I came away from this book longing to want to love God more.
In the first three chapters of the book Chan provides a picture of God’s majesty, his awesomeness, if you will, the idea being that we have lost a sense of how incredible a Being it is who desires a relationship with us. With that settled, he turns to us. I found particularly difficult the chapter which provides a profile of the lukewarm Christian. He nailed me with this bullet: “Lukewarm people do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to.” God is satisfied with our leftovers, he says, but demands a total surrender. Why do we hold back?
Even better, though, is is profile of those obsessed with Christ, consumed by their love for them. He says they are lovers, risk-takers, friends of all, crazy ones, humble, servers, givers, sojourners, engrossed, unguarded, rooted, dedicators, and sacrificers. He says things like “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.” In one chapter he gives short profiles of people who are living out this radical faith, from the well-known to the neighbor down the street.
But in the end Chan wisely never tells us what to do, how to live our lives, but calls on us to go to Jesus, pray, and examine ourselves, asking: “Is this the most loving way to do life? Am I loving my neighbor and my God by living where I live, by driving what I drive, by talking how I talk?” They’re questions I’ll be asking.
I recommend the book. It’s orthodox in doctrine, personal in appeal, full of grace, and deeply unsettling.
[I'm slow getting around to this book, published in 2008. Chan already has a new book, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit.]