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Reading 2012: Love Does

September 11, 2012

Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World is definitely not your ordinary book. But that’s because Bob Goff is not exactly an ordinary guy. As a teen, his life was deeply impacted by mentors in his life pointing him to Jesus and by showing him that love does–it doesn’t just make speeches or think about it, it shows what love is by doing. As he progressed into adulthood and his walk with God, he began to see the importance of living out his faith through the vivid language of love.

If you’re looking for sermon illustrations, this book is chock full of them. Readers will likely remember some of these stories for the rest of their lives: like the account of the initially-stranger boy who came to Bob’s house almost every day to request to borrow and count on Bob to help him plan his engagement, which he eventually pulled off: having a romantic dinner on Bob’s porch, served by 30 friends, and with the coast guard lighting off fireworks in the background. Or, Bob’s crazy routine of daily placing peanut butter sandwiches underneath his now wife’s car during their courtship phase. Or, the account of how Bob didn’t get accepted to law school, decided to show up outside the Dean’s office every day for seven days to tell him, “just tell me to go buy my books.” The Dean eventually did allow him to enroll, and now Bob is a highly respected lawyer.

If I could sum up Bob Goff’s life (as portrayed in the book) in two words, it would be radical whimsy. I strongly believe the Bible teaches that love does–it lives out and demonstrates, not just says words. However, I can see how it could be easy  to read the book and see Bob Goff’s extroverted, whimsical, flamboyant personality and way of life and assume that that is what it means for for love to “do.” Goff could have done a better job clarifying that you don’t have to be crazy or do crazy just like he did in order to demonstrate that “love does” through your life. God is a very big God, but he doesn’t always use big people, personalities, or plans.

Still, the book is replete with powerful statements of truth. Much of the book follows the lines of Goff explaining, “I used to think…, but now I know…” The book holds many proverbs and illustrations. Or, perhaps in Biblical terms, parables, albeit some seem a bit stretched. Others, like some sermon illustrations, are entertaining stories you’ll remember long afterwards, but still have no idea how it’s supposed to be connected to the sermon. It is clear that Bob Goff is passionate about his faith. The book is not intended to be Bob’s theological treatise, but if it were, I would have a few concerns.

In many areas, Goff  addresses flawed trends in American Pop Christianity, but also seems to downplay the importance of deep, sound theological teaching. Genuine, love-doing faith and sound theology are not mutually exclusive, though misrepresentations of both seem to pit the two against each other.

I found this excerpt (page 101) perceptive, and demonstrative of Bob’s insights:

“A lot of Christians do the same thing with their faith without really noticing it. It’s not because they’re malicious or anything. They’ve just bought into the hype that faith is like an exclusive club you’re in. They take what used to be authentic friendships and use them like a networking cocktail mixer. They call what the rest of us call normal acts of kindness “ministry” or go on a wonderful adventure to see another country and call it a “mission trip.

“It can come across as formulaic and manipulative to toss out some buzz words and slip past the bouncers into the club. But these folks run the risk of downgrading a genuine and sincere faith into an infomercial for God or their own status. What I like about Jesus is that He didn’t try to recruit people or use spin. Neither He nor His disciples ever said they were going on a mission trip, because they weren’t. He just invited everyone and said they could follow Him. He didn’t use big  words or Christian code to cue people that He was in the club or that He wanted to protect His reputation.”

Or talk about all of the things He was going to do or the number of people He was going to have “pray the prayer” to accept Him. He didn’t present God’s plan like a prospectus promising a return on investment. He just asked people to join the adventure. It’s almost like Jesus came to say, among other things, that a relationship with Him isn’t supposed to make complete sense or provide security. Faith isn’t an equation or a formula or a business deal that gets you what you want. In short, there’s nothing on the other side of the equals sign, just Jesus.”

Many people came to this book having read Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand YearsI had not, but hope to read it soon, and perhaps have a better understanding of Bob Goff and Love Does.

If you’ve read Love Does, I’d love to have you share your thoughts!

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