I had read a little bit about Francis Chan because I’m always on the lookout for Christian authors that will challenge me and help me from getting too comfortable in my faith. I’d never actually picked up anything by him though until November of this year when our church purchased an online streaming service for us to use, and I saw some videos of his.
I was impressed enough to go right out and buy two of his books. The first one I decided to read was this one, “Crazy Love.” The first thing I noticed was that “GOD IS LOVE” is emblazoned in huge letters on the back cover. God is crazy, relentless, all-powerful love, and honestly I can’t describe my own view any better than that. The second thing I noticed was an endorsement from Kirk Cameron on the inside of the front flap. I almost put it down. If this book was going to be full of fundamentalist moralizing, I didn’t want anything to do with it, but I decided to let Francis Chan speak for himself. I’m glad I did.
It would be fair to say that Chan’s theology is probably a bit more conservative than what I generally subscribe to, but that’s ok. I don’t claim to have a monopoly on truth or good ideas. I feel the same way about Timothy Keller, who I respect immensely. I did wonder for a bit though because Chan seemed caught up with the “heaven and hell” question. I think you have to be careful with this because when you start talking about heaven and hell it’s really easy to start parsing people into who’s “in” and who’s “out.” That’s not for us to judge though. More than once in the Gospel Jesus tells the religious elite that they’re in for some surprises when it comes to who is in and who is out. Still, like it or not, the “heaven and hell” question remains the lens through which it seems that most Americans view Christianity.
But Chan doesn’t really come at it like that though. He wants us to apply the “heaven and hell” question to ourselves. Now he says a couple of times in the book that he isn’t trying to make anyone question their salvation. But Jesus does say, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15 NRSV). So what do we do with that? For Chan, that means realizing that God is in love with us in a crazy, relentless way, and that He wants us to enter into an intense “crazy loving” relationship with Him as well.
When we do that, that should change our lives. It should permeate every aspect of our being, every facet of our daily routine, from sunrise to sunset. Chan isn’t just talking about going through some spiritual motions and routines that may or may not actually change you, but literally and intentionally seeking God and loving God.
Eventually this will hopefully lead us into a new life, not just some glorious eternal life in heaven but a radical, revolutionary life of love for God and love for neighbor here on earth. It made me very happy to see Chan talk about this explicitly because as I alluded to earlier, I don’t think that many American Christians ever move on from the “heaven and hell” question to ask “What’s next?” or “What do I do with this radical love that I’m experiencing?”
For Chan, that meant leaving the comfortable confines of his Simi Valley home and the successful church that he had helped build. He felt called to hit the streets and he and his family traveled all around the world to search for what God wanted them to do. Eventually he found it closer to home than he might have imagined and now does urban ministry in San Francisco.
He talks about others who have gone even farther: to Africa, to South America. He talks about other folks practicing radical love in our own cities here in America. Chan knows that God isn’t going to call all of us to go to Africa or whatever, but if we open ourselves up to God’s Crazy Love in an intense, intentional relationship, He’ll tell us where he wants us to go. Then the question is, do we have the guts to do it?
I can’t recommend this book enough. Whether you’re on the more conservative or liberal side of today’s Christian climate you’ll find things in “Crazy Love” that will challenge you to deepen your relationship with Christ and help you listen for his call on your life.
I can’t wait to read more from Pastor Chan.