Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God by Francis Chan“The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is…we have an inaccurate view of God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way.”
Many of us know what it is or has been like to be crazy in love with someone – to love someone so much that there’s nothing you wouldn’t do for them. Hopefully if you’re married you feel this way at least to some degree about your spouse. Maybe you can say you’re crazy about your kids, at least when they’re not driving you crazy! Have you ever characterized your love for God as being crazy? Consider God’s unconditional love toward sinners: a love for those who were His enemies, who hated Him and would have nothing to do with Him, a love that would cause Him to deliver His own Son to suffer the wrath and punishment that they deserved in order to redeem them for Himself (Romans 5:8). Now that’s crazy! In response to God’s “relentless” love for us undeserving sinners, doesn’t it seem natural that we in return would be utterly lovestruck for God and completely devoted to Him? Francis Chan wrote his book Crazy Love out of a concern that so many who profess to be Christians only seem to have a half-hearted love for Him and are content to live complacent, comfortable lives for God, as long as it’s convenient and doesn’t require too much effort or sacrifice on their part. Instead of feeling like they “have enough God” as Chan puts it, he desires for his readers to want more of God, and such is his stated purpose for this book.
Chan makes the observation, “The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is…we have an inaccurate view of God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way.” Chan proposes that the reason the church is not effective in drawing the world to Christ is that they have a wrong understanding and an inaccurate, watered-down view of who God is.
So He spends the first three chapters looking at who the God of the Bible is, for in order to worship Him properly (which He demands), we need to know who He is. Chan begins by briefly highlighting some of the attributes that set God apart as God. He talks about the importance of understanding (with our finite minds) that God is eternal, holy, all-knowing , all-powerful, fair, just and good, and what this means to us. (Of course this is not a comprehensive list, but this book isn’t meant to be a study on God’s attributes. I highly recommend A. W. Pink’s book, The Attributes of God for an in-depth study on this topic.) Chan makes some good comments here, for example:
- It shouldn’t bother us when we can’t fully understand God because He is infinite and we are limited
- We can never overestimate His holiness or perfection
- When our idea of what is right or wrong or good or bad don’t agree with God’s, He’s not the one who needs to be corrected
- “God hates and must punish sin. And He is totally just and fair in doing so.”
One thing Chan said in this chapter did trouble me, though. He is talking about how God knows us intimately, in a way that no one does, not even ourselves. He quotes Hebrews 4:13 that states, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight,” and comments that this God, who is the holy, eternal Creator of all things, “takes the time to know all the little details about each of us. He does not have to know us so well, but He chooses to.” This language moves towards the Open Theistic view that God chooses to limit what He knows and continues to acquire information and learn, which would mean that He changes over time. But God doesn’t need to take time and effort to learn about us. He has always known everything and doesn’t have to take the time to study me to get to know me.
In the next chapter, Chan addresses the fact that our life is not about us but about God, and that our sole purpose, in everything we do, is to bring glory to God. So often we worry or stress about the circumstances in our life, forgetting who’s in control of those circumstances, and how small and insignificant in light of eternity my problems are. Chan reminds us that only what is done for God really matters, and that we should make each day count as we don’t know how much longer we will have to live for Him.
In Chapter 3, Chan shares that his relationship with and feelings for his own father, and then later for his children, affected the way he viewed and felt about God. He writes,
My own love and desire for my kids’ love is so strong that it opened my eyes to how much God desires and loves us….I came to understand that my desire for my children is only a faint echo of God’s great love for me and for every person He made.
Here Chan projects his own feelings for his children onto God, basically saying, “I feel this way, so then God must feel the same way but to a stronger degree.” We need to be careful not to compare God to ourselves, or assign human traits to God. Is God love? Yes, but is that love an emotional feeling? No. That being said, it does give us a little bit of a perspective when we think of the immense, perfect, unchanging love that God has for His people as compared with our flawed, fluctuating, fickle love for the people in our lives. And Chan acknowledges that unless God loved us first, we could not love Him (I John). That said, the fact is, we will never love Him perfectly and effortlessly as He deserves as long as we are in these sinful bodies living on this earth. Chan comments,
It confuses us when loving God is hard. Shouldn’t it be easy to love a God so wonderful? When we love God because we feel we should love Him, instead of genuinely loving out of our true selves, we have forgotten who God really is…In our world, where hundreds of things distract us from God, we have to intentionally and consistently remind ourselves of Him…Because we don’t often think about the reality of who God is, we quickly forget that He is worthy to be worshiped and loved.
I sometimes struggle with how to properly respond to God’s magnitude in a world bent on ignoring or merely tolerating Him. But know this: God will not be tolerated. He instructs us to worship and fear Him.
I noticed that when Chan speaks of his love towards his children, he is exclusive, particular to his own children, not every child in the world. But then he changes the analogy and compares his love to the love that supposedly God has for every person. However, the Bible teaches in numerous passages that God has a special love for His people, those whom He gave His Son, and for whom Christ died. Notice the object of Christ’s love and death in passages such as Matt. 1:21, Eph. 5:25, John 6:37-39, John 10:11, 14-18, Matt. 11:27, Acts 20:28. (For more about the particular love of Christ for His people, read Christ’s Death: For All, Some, or None?)
Chan stresses the fact that if we really come to grips with who God is and the wonder of His love, it would cause us to love and follow Him completely, wholeheartedly, without reservation or compromise. He observes that many who claim to love God do so with lukewarmness. Chan asks the reader with the question: Do you love God for who He is, or just for what He gives you?
We know that God should be the most important thing in our life. We are commanded to love Him with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. So the next several chapters turn towards challenging believers, or to be more specific, American churchgoers, regarding their level of commitment to God, and how they demonstrate it in their life choices. Based on his observations, Chan’s concern is that many Christians fall in the category of the soil in which the seed was choked out by thorns (Matt. 13:22). He writes,
Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God’s kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money, and thought on the things of this world?
He then lists some characteristics of a lukewarm Christian, hoping it will serve as a wake-up call to readers who profess to be Christians but may not be. In Chan’s mind, “churchgoers who are lukewarm are not Christians. We will not see them in heaven.” Chan uses the church of Laodicea described in Revelation 3:15-21 as an example of what we as believers are not to be, and classifies these people as unbelievers, pointing out that in the passage, Jesus describes these people as being “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked” and that He is going to vomit them out.
I disagree with Chan’s assessment of the people of the Laodicean church, and his statement that we won’t find lukewarm believers in heaven. We are all at different places of our sanctification at any given time. Regarding the Laodiceans, one thing to note is that they are referred to as a church. A church, as defined by the New Testament use of the word, is not simply a building where random people gather in the name of a religion. It is a body of believers, God’s people, for whom Christ gave His life. As to them being described as wretched and pitiful – well, in reality we all are. The condemning part isn’t that they’re poor and wretched, it’s that they don’t recognize it, and that in their wealth and comfort they have forgotten their spiritual need of Christ. The Lord says, “I am about to spit you out”; He has not yet done so. Then in verse 19 (which Chan excludes from his quote), we hear Christ say, “Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline, so be earnest (or zealous) and repent!” Then follows the well-known verse (incorrectly used to call people to salvation) where Jesus says He is standing at the door, knocking and calling. This letter was written as a warning and reproof to this church, to light a fire under them; it’s a call to repentance to those whom the Lord loves.
Chan goes on to emphasize that the only thing that really matters or that will last is how we love God and others. He proposes that how we love is how God will assess our life. However I would posit that Love, while certainly an important attribute for every Christian to have, is not, in fact, the most important. God commands us, “Be holy, as I am holy.” God is in the process of sanctifying His children, making them more holy. Jesus said to His disciples, “If you love me, obey my commandments.” As I grow in holiness and become more like Christ, I will become more loving, as well as more kind, patient, faithful, etc.
But what it comes down to is this: we can’t obey God, worship Him, or love Him, in our own strength or effort. We must give Him all we have, as He deserves and demands nothing less. But we can never do or give as much as He deserves, and this we must humbly confess to Him regularly, asking for His help.
Now, I understand that Francis Chan wants Christians to step up their game, so to speak, and to be more wholeheartedly committed to the Lord. So after presenting a profile of the lukewarm Christian, which no Christian should be content to be, he turns to describing the Christian who is obsessed with Jesus, which he desires to see every Christian aspire towards. Chan describes an obsessed Christian as one who is a servant and a giver, one who is humble and sacrificial and always puts God and others first, is deeply engaged in God’s Word, and has their eyes focused on the eternal rather than the temporal. While I agree that these should characterize every Christian, the last section of Crazy Love comes across a bit like a guilt trip on the reader. Chan shares brief portraits of a number of people who made radical changes in their lives and essentially gave up everything for God, and observes that these were just ordinary people who were completely sold out for God and felt called by Him to do something extraordinary. But he presents this as if we each must be necessarily on one end of the spectrum or the other. Either we are complacent, lukewarm, non-committed so-called Christians who are sitting on the side lines, or we are completely Spirit-filled, self-denying, risk-taking, committed believers who forsake everything and leave our normal, everyday lifestyle to change the world for the cause of Christ. I don’t think it necessarily must be an either/or option.
But he then does say that he’s not telling each of us that we need to quit our jobs, sell our homes, and go to a third world country to minister to the needy. He does want to challenge us to think, “Is this what I want to be doing when Christ comes back?” and to be striving to be obedient and committed to live out Christ right where we are, one day at a time. And I think this is a valid question for each of us to ask ourselves daily.
I believe Francis Chan has a heart for the lost, is sincerely concerned about the state of the American Evangelical church and desires to see the church more biblical in both teaching and practice. Crazy Love is straightforward and stirs up true believers in their commitment to Christ.
(Since writing Crazy Love in 2008, Francis Chan left his position at his church and has been involved in other ministries, many of which are more focused on humanitarian efforts ministering to inner city communities. You can read more about what Francis Chan is currently involved in, visit CrazyLove.org)
Related Sites and Articles
- Francis Chan’s Blog (crazylove.org)
- A Conversation with Francis Chan
- You and Me Forever (www.youandmeforever.org)
- Tim Challies’ review of Crazy Love (www.challies.com)
- Articles by Francis Chan (desiringGod.org)