My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Crazy Love by Francis Chen is a wake-up call to 21st century, comfortable, wealthy Christians, particularly in North America. Chen’s challenge is to recognize the fact that we have been given a treasure beyond our ability to even grasp—but it is given in order to share, not hoard. Even more, we are to share with those who can’t or won’t give back. Chen lays the groundwork by first reminding us to get our eyes away from ourselves and our minuscule worlds, to fasten our gaze, instead, on the breathtaking, vast awe of God. Then, he challenges us to take a hard look at the “lukewarm Christian.” As Chen adds more and more detail to his painting of the lukewarm Christian, I challenge you not to squirm. I would venture to guess that most Christians in America will see some version of themselves in some of Chen’s descriptions. Lest you despair, Chen is quick to add that there is a difference between sometimes acting in ways that are “lukewarm,” which we all do, and living a life that is generally characterized as “comfortably Christian.”
Chen argues that we say we trust God, but we live in such a way that we really never have to trust God. We buy insurance to cover all our risks; we build up retirement funds to cover us in old age; and we make sure we have a healthy savings account for emergencies. Do we ever do what the disciples did—literally leaving their lives and livelihoods behind to follow Jesus, with absolutely no guarantees as to what was next? No. Not really. Not often, anyway.
Chen provides modern examples of those who have stepped out on very long limbs—so far out, in fact, that trusting God had to be part of the equation. His aim is to provide pictures of what a genuine leap of faith looks like, particularly when that leap involves serving something bigger than self. He encourages us to consider what we might do if we stepped out in service, putting ourselves in positions where we had to trust God to come through. He tells of how a trip to Africa led his own family to a decision to downsize so more funds would be available for giving. Chen challenges us to keep our eyes on a very big and capable God who catches us when we leap.
I admit that I felt a little beat up at times as I read, and I wondered if Chen was overstating his case now and then. The book, though, was published in 2008, so we can safely assume that much was written well before the recession had really crippled the country and so many people, who might have at one time been more than comfortable, are now finding themselves in new positions of having to trust God. Even so, the idea of “cutting back” or “doing without” is all relative and carries vastly different meanings depending on your geography. There are people in the world who could eat for a week on the amount that we cut out of our “dining out” budget.
Chen’s book, in the end, is a call to look for opportunities to offer God’s love and grace to others, through tangible and intangible means, and to not be bothered if we don’t know how we can actually make it happen. If the job seems beyond our ability, it simply means we will have to rely on God, and that is never a bad thing. And if people say we are being crazy or extreme, that’s okay too. God loved us relentlessly and beyond all reason. Why should we love any differently?
© 2010 L. Kay Johnson, L is for LaNita. All rights reserved.