Crazy Love—Book Summary
Book by Francis Chan
Summary by Stacey Tuttle
Chan says that when he reads the New Testament, he wonders if the modern American church is missing the point.
He writes Crazy Love for those who want more from their relationship with Jesus. He says many people say that they believe in Jesus, just not organized religion. Chan thinks that if people really lived the lives God intended, others would have to say instead, “I can’t deny what the church does, but I don’t believe in their God.”
Chapter One: Stop Praying
Rather than talking to/at God, Chan echoes Solomon’s caution not to rush into God’s presence with words. He challenges readers to be silent and to think long and hard about who God is. To help readers marvel at God and his creative genius, Chan directs readers to a video called “Awe Factor” at www.crazylovebook.com and takes a few pages to recount a few of the mysteries of creation. He concludes the section with a reminder that God commands us to worship and fear him, anything less is not enough.
Despite the wonder of the world around us (which one might think would make loving God really easy), Chan admits that loving God can be hard. We need to be constantly reminded of God’s goodness, His mighty acts, His character and His nature lest we forget to worship Him.
In order to do that, we have to know who God is. Chan cautions against making up our own ideas about who God is. Not all ideas are equally true about Him. God already has a name and an identity—it’s not up to us to decide who He is, it’s up to us to find out who He is. Chan draws our attention to a few of God’s characteristics: He is holy, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, fair and just.
When we truly take in God’s majesty, when we get a glimpse of who He is, Chan hopes we will respond as Isaiah did, that we will recognize that we are a puny people of unclean lips.
Chapter Two: You May Not Finish This Chapter
Life is unpredictable and is but a flash. There is no guarantee that anyone will live long enough to finish this chapter. Yet, most of us do not live as if that were true.
God commands us to rejoice always. When we stress and worry about our lives and our problems, we are essentially saying that we think our problems, “our circumstances are more important than God’s command to always rejoice. In other words, that [we] have a ‘right’ to disobey God because of the magnitude of [our] responsibilities.”
- “Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives.”
- “Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control.”
Chan says life is like a movie—a movie that is all about God. He is the central character, not us. In the entire scheme of God’s movie we are no more than an extra. Chan asks us what we want to do with our brief appearance on screen…make much of ourselves, or make much of God? All of the circumstances and struggles we are stressing and worrying over, when seen in this light, are really just great opportunities to make much of God.
Chapter Three: Crazy Love
Chan confesses that while he knew in his head that God loved him, he didn’t really believe it in his heart. He thinks that, at least for him, this was partly due to his painful relationship with his dad. But when Chan had his own children his understanding of a father’s love began to change greatly in a way that positively impacted his understanding of God as a loving Father. He used to fear God. Though he still has a healthy fear, he now he describes his relationship with God as reverent intimacy.
In this chapter, Chan explains a little of the great, crazy love God has for us. He says, “The irony is that while God doesn’t need us but still wants us, we desperately need God but don’t really want Him most of the time. He treasures us and anticipates our departure from this earth to be with Him—and we wonder indifferently, how much we have to do for Him to get by.” Chan asks, “Do you love this God who is everything, or do you just love everything He gives you?”
Chapter Four: Profile of the Lukewarm
Jesus spoke in parables so that people who weren’t serious about Him, who were really seeking to understand what He was saying, wouldn’t get it. Jesus wants followers, not fakers.
Chan draws attention to the parable of the sower and proposes that “most American churchgoers are the soil that chokes the seed because of all the thorns. Thorns are anything that distracts us from God. When we want God and a bunch of other stuff, then that means we have thorns in our soil.” Chan says that the majority of Americans have too much stuff in our lives—such that we are distracted and impeded in our spiritual growth. It makes us lukewarm. He says, “The goals of American Christianity are often a nice marriage, children who don’t swear, and good church attendance.”
Chan proceeds with a list of defining characteristics of the lukewarm Christian.
- “Attend church fairly regularly. It is what is expected of them, what they believe ‘good Christians’ do, so they go.”
- “Give money to charity and to the church…as 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?”
- “Tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They desire to fit in both at church and outside of church; they care more about what people think of their actions (like church attendance and giving) than what God thinks of their hearts and lives.”
- “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.”
- “Are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act.”
- “Rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers or friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about private issues like religion.”
- “Gauge their morality or ‘goodness’ by comparing themselves to the secular world. They feel satisfied that while they aren’t as hard-core for Jesus and so-and-so, they are nowhere as horrible as the guy down the street.”
- “Say they love Jesus, and He is, indeed, a part of their lives. But only a part. They give Him a section of their time, their money, and their thoughts, but He isn’t allowed to control their lives.”
- “Love God but they do not love Him with all their heart, soul, and strength. They would be quick to assure you that they try to love God that much, but that sort of total devotion isn’t really possible for the average person; it’s only for pastors and missionaries and radicals.”
- “Love others but do not seek to love others as much as they love themselves. Their loves of others is typically focused on those who love them in return… 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.”
- “Will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go or how much time, money, and energy they are willing to give.”
- “Think about life on earth much more often than eternity in heaven…. Rarely, if ever, do they intently consider the life to come.”
- “Are thankful for their luxuries and comforts, and rarely consider trying to give as much as possible to the poor…. Untold numbers of lukewarm people feel ‘called’ to minister to the rich; very few feel ‘called’ to minister to the poor.”
- “Do whatever is necessary to keep themselves from feeling too guilty. They want to do the bare minimum, to be ‘good enough’ without it requiring too much of them.”
- “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.”
- “Feel secure because they attend church, made a profession of faith at age twelve, were baptized, come from a Christian family, vote Republican, or live in America.”
- “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.”
- “Probably drink and swear less than average, but besides that, they really aren’t very different form your typical unbeliever. They equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness, but they couldn’t be more wrong.”
Lukewarm people ask,
- ‘How far can I go before it’s considered a sin?’ instead of ‘How can I keep myself pure as a temple of the Holy Spirit?’
- ‘How much do I have to give?’ instead of ‘How much can I give?’
- ‘How much time should I spend praying and reading my Bible?’ instead of ‘I wish I didn’t have to go to work, so I could sit here and read longer!’
Chapter Five: Serving Leftovers to a Holy God
Challenging the popular notion of the “lukewarm Christian,” Chan warns that Christ wants all or nothing. He does not believe that lukewarm people are Christians (he cites James 2:19, 1 John 2:3-4, Matthew 16:24-25, Luke 14:33 and more to support this), and he questions if this idea of non-fruit bearing Christians is something we created to make it easier and more palatable to be a follower of Jesus.
Chan struggled to write this chapter and states that he doesn’t want true believers to doubt their salvation after reading this. After all, God’s grace is sufficient. He admits that all believers have some lukewarm elements in their lives. But he does want to challenge the idea that doing a few Christian-like things makes you a Christian, and encourage Christians to give all to Christ.
One thing which encourages our tendency toward being lukewarm is our wealth in America. It keeps us from being dependent on God. Not only that, but we are tempted to give God our leftovers rather than our all. We think our offerings and sacrifices are sufficient so long as they are equivalent or greater than those of the people around us. We fail to see what really matters to God. We think he is impressed with our token gifts, tithes and offerings, when in I Corinthians 13:2-3 it is pretty clear that what matters to God is how we love; and when we really love, we hold nothing back.
Chan says that, “If life is a river, then pursuing Christ requires swimming upstream. When we stop swimming, or actively following Him, we automatically begin to be swept downstream.” He is concerned that the church is full of people who, if not intentionally swimming away, are drifting away. “How we spend our time, what our money goes toward, and where we will invest our energy is equivalent to choosing God or rejecting Him.” These are often our means of drifting.
Jesus made it clear that few will find the narrow way and even less among the rich. That’s why, in this chapter, Chan hopes to challenge Christians not to assume that they are one of the few on the narrow way, that they are the good soil. A few good questions to ponder as you check your heart: “Are you willing to say to God that He can have whatever He wants? Do you believe that whole hearted commitment to Him is more important than any other thing or person in your life? Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter; unless it is about loving God and loving the people He has made?”
Chapter Six: When You’re In Love
When you’re in love, you do crazy things just to be with that person. God wants us to love and desire Him, not to be slaves or servants out of obligation. However, we can’t force ourselves to love Him more. We need to ask Him to help us love Him. He can increase our love for Himself. As our love increases, so will our giving. As we love God more, we give Him more of our lives, our resources, our trust. What we once gave out of fear and obligation we will give from a heart of love and an attitude of joy.
Chan encourages readers to be real with God. “Tell Him how you feel. Tell Him that He isn’t the most important thing in this life to you, and that you’re sorry for that. Tell Him that you’ve been lukewarm, that you’ve chosen over Him time and again. Tell Him that you want Him to change you, that you long to genuinely enjoy Him. Tell Him how you want to experience true satisfaction and pleasure and joy in your relationship with Him. Tell Him you want to love Him more than anything on this earth. Tell him you want to treasure the Kingdom of heaven so much that you’d willingly sell everything in order to get it.”
Chapter Seven: Your Best Life…Later
What does it look like to run after God wholeheartedly?
After a brief look at the heroes of the Christian faith, Chan concludes that having faith often means looking a little crazy to the outside world. He says that when our lives make sense to unbelievers, something is wrong. God doesn’t call us to play it safe. He calls us to live like Jesus (I John 2:6) and mentions a few ways we can do that:
- Having compassion for the poor
- Giving your best, not just a little
- Giving your money
- Giving your time
- Giving yourself
- Trusting God with abandon
- Living by faith such that you are dependent on God to come through for you
- Spending yourself (Isaiah 58:10) for the Lord, for others…as Jesus did
Chapter Eight: Profile of the Obsessed
Holding back is not a Biblical ideal and it’s not true love. True love gives full, gives all, without expecting anything in return. It is obsession. To be obsessed is to be mentally preoccupied (excessively so) with one single thing. Christ wants to be our obsession, the one thing we are mentally and excessively preoccupied with. Chan describes what it looks like for a follower of Christ to be obsessed with Him.
- “People who are obsessed with Jesus give freely and openly, without censure. Obsessed people love those who hate them and who can never love them back.”
- “The love for equals is a human thing—of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing—the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing—to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the rich for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy—love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world.” –Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat.
- “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.”
- “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 (I John 2:4-6, Matt. 16:24-26).”
- “Obsessed people are more concerned with obeying God than doing what is expected or fulfilling the status quo. A person who is obsessed with Jesus will do things that don’t always make sense in terms of success or wealth on this earth. As Martin Luther put it, ‘There are two days on my calendar: this day and that day’ (Luke 14:25-35, Matt. 7:13-23; 8:18-22; Rev. 3:1-6).”
- “A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the sin of pride is always a battle. Obsessed people know that you can never be ‘humble enough,’ and so they seek to make themselves less known and Christ more known (Matt. 5:16).”
- “People who are obsessed with Jesus do not consider service a burden. Obsessed people take joy in loving God by loving His people (Matt. 13:44; John 15:8).”
- “People who are obsessed with God are known as givers, not takers. Obsessed people genuinely think that others matter as much as they do, and they are particularly aware of those who are poor around the world. (James 2:14-26).”
- “A person who is obsessed thinks about heaven frequently. Obsessed people orient their lives around eternity; they are not fixed only on what is here in front of them.”
- “A person who is obsessed is characterized by committed, settled, passionate love for God, above and before every other thing and every other being.”
- “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.”
- “People who are obsessed with God have an intimate relationship with Him. They are nourished by God’s Word throughout the day because they know that forty minutes on Sunday is not enough to sustain them for a whole week, especially when they will encounter so many distractions and alternative messages.”
- “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).”
- “A person who is obsessed with Jesus knows that the best thing he can do is be faithful to his Savior in every aspect of his life, continually saying “Thank You!” to God. An obsessed person knows there can never be intimacy if he is always trying to pay God back or work hard enough to be worthy. He revels in his role as child and friend of God.”
Chapter Nine: Who Really Lives That Way?
Chan tells several true stories of people living and dead who live(d) lives obsessed with Jesus Christ. They live out their obsession in different ways, but each is radical and full-hearted in his/her devotion to Christ.
- Nathan Barlow, www.mossyfoot.com, is a medical doctor in Ethiopia dedicated to helping others with mossy foot condition. He once had all his teeth removed so that a toothache could never again distract him from his work.
- Simpson Rebbavarapu, www.beaumin.org, whose mother tried multiple times to abort him (without success) divides his time between an orphanage he started and evangelism ministry to illiterate villages. He takes no salary so that all funds can go to ministries or to help those in need. This life of faith has the added benefit of forcing him to be in prayer and dependence on God.
- Jamie Lang left for Tanzania as a single girl of 23 years old praying that God would allow her to make a radical difference in one life. She ended up adopting a baby whose mother died of AIDS. Before she died, the mother accepted Christ because Jamie’s love and care for Junio so demonstrated Christ’s love. Incidentally, Junio’s mother had tried to abort the baby, but the medications caused premature labor without bleeding thus the baby’s life was spared and he did not contract HIV from his mom.
- Marva J. Dawn and her husband have chosen to live off of his teacher’s salary and give all of her salary away. She has a lot of medical problems and could be made more comfortable, but refuses to use any of her salary toward that end when so many are suffering and in need. In fact, she feels her inconveniences help her to better identify with others in need.
- Rich Mullins was a very successful Christian musician, but considered music simply the means to reach his higher calling which was to love others. He often performed barefoot and unshaven and confessed his sins to audiences in order to keep them from putting him on a pedestal. He never knew how successful he was with his music because his earnings went to the church from which they paid him a small salary. The rest of his earnings were given away.
- Rings, a chain smoking ex-convict, ex-addict, and ex-alcoholic now lives out of his car and gives away everything he has to others, feeding fellow homeless out of his truck while telling them about Jesus. He gives everything away because he knows that it was all given to him by God; nothing is his. He likes to say that if God saved him, then He can save anyone…and everyone.
- At 18 years old, Rachel Saint turned down an offer to be heiress and companion to a very wealthy woman. Instead she gave her life to serving others, first at a halfway house for alcoholics, then as a translator for Wycliffe Bible Translators with the Shapra Indians of Peru and ultimately with the Waorani Indians of Ecuador, the very people who previously killed her brother. She lived with them for twenty years, translated the New Testament into their language and is today buried with them.
- George Muller and his wife started an orphanage with a dual purpose: to help orphans and to demonstrate to others what it’s like to trust in God alone for everything. To accomplish this, they never made their needs known to anyone but God. Over ten thousand orphans were cared for in 5 orphan homes Muller built and a million and a half pounds were given in the form of donations—and all was accomplished by prayer alone.
- Brother Yun persevered in preaching the gospel throughout China despite being arrested more than 30 times and enduring horrific torture. One time, to ensure he would not escape, the guards beat his legs until he was crippled. Miraculously, he walked out of the jail through gates and barriers which were always locked, unseen and on his “crippled” and “broken” legs.
- Shane Claiborne, www.thesimpleway.com, and other believers have chosen to help those in poverty and in one of the worst neighborhoods in Pennsylvania by living amongst them. They feed the hungry, hang with the neighborhood youth, run a community store, and work to improve the neighborhood aesthetics in various ways.
- The Robynson Family (whose three kids are under the age of 10) makes pancakes and coffee on Christmas morning and distributes it from a red wagon to the homeless on Christmas morning.
- Susan Diego told God she would do anything He asked, but asked that it not be public speaking. However, God did call her to speak—in Uganda at a conference for women. She submitted and obeyed. Susan spoke at least ten times on a variety of topics to hundreds of women.
- You would never guess that Lucy is an ex-prostitute. She was transformed when she met Jesus and now opens her life to minister to those who are where she once was. Prostitutes, pimps, dealers, users…they all know that they are welcome at Lucy’s.
- Cornerstone Community Church lives out the command to love your neighbor as yourself by giving away 50% of their budget. They also scrapped plans for a big new building in favor of a much cheaper outdoor amphitheater so that they can give more money away.
Chapter Ten: The Crux of the Matter
The preceding stories are meant to be inspiring, not prescriptive. “Oswald Chambers writes, ‘Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you.’ To that [Chan] would add, ‘Be careful not to turn others’ lives into the mold for your own.’ Allow God to be as creative with you as He is with each of us….We have a God who is a Creator, not a duplicator.”
Chan hopes the examples of others will challenge you to ask “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?” The point he wants to make is that there are alternative ways to live and that we need to ask God how HE would have us live.
It will be easy to be inspired by this book but to excuse doing nothing because you are waiting on God to reveal where/how He wants you to act, Chan cautions. Or you will wait until you feel like obeying so that your obedience is heartfelt and not simply an act of the will. However, if you love God, He says you will obey Him. It is right to obey whether or not you feel like it. And remember, the Holy Spirit is here to help us, empower us and enable us to live the lives we have been called to.
Finally, Chan challenges readers to ask themselves:
- Is this what I want to be doing when Christ comes back?
- What will people in heaven say about my life on earth?
- Will people speak of God’s work and glory through me?
- How will I answer God when he asks what I did with what He gave me?
Chan, Francis. Crazy Love. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 2008.