Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Love Does-My Take on Things

I cringe when I start out to write a book review. I now personally understand the doubt, angst, joy, tears, and struggle that come with putting into words what your brain is still trying to make sense of. But because this book is gaining traction in America, I felt like chiming might be helpful as we process together what our lives should look like as followers of Jesus. *Minor spoiler alert. This is long, but I'd LOVE feedback on this.

I've only had one cup of coffee today, so I'm gonna keep this discussion at 3 strong points and 3 points of caution.

Here's where I thought he nailed it:

1. Love is messy. Many times as believers we can spin our wheels driving from one Christian event to another. Being a part of the world is messy and even scary at times. Bob Goff challenged me to make that phone call or invite that one person over for dinner that gets overlooked in most social circles. Throw yourself into the ring. You might get banged up but at least your playing.

2. Love demands sacrifice. To say we want to love someone will demand of us to give money away and say no to things that we would rather be doing. Love requires us to cash in when we say we want to bring dinner over or baby-sit for a neighbor. Bob tells stories of getting on a plane to fly to Uganda and aid in the rescuing of young boys from jail. He didn't sit back and pray for so long that his passion about it faded. He acted.

3. Love is dangerous. There are days, sometimes hours, that will require us to do irrational things for the sake of love. On a yearly basis, my father reminds me that if anything ever happened to us as a family, he'd be on a plane within 24 hours. Impulsive, irrational love. Like Jesus letting Judas play on his team with the other disciples. That was a dangerous call, but for the time, it was also incredibly loving. There are times we are called to include the Judas' or to give our brand new cars away to a single mom. Glorious, dangerous love.

Here's where I need to offer caution. (By 3 points, I actually meant 4. We're working on a curve today. Remember the bit about coffee?)

1. Love doesn't always have a large bank roll or important friends. Goff clearly has a few extra pennies to spare and more than a few friends who can make things happen. In most of his adventures, the focus is on spontaneity. Getting on a plane to London because your 10-year old says she wants to go isn't inherently Christian. It's just a really fun thing to do and it also requires quite a bit of liquid income.

It might sound ludicrous for him to just call up John Ashcroft like he did, but let's keep in mind he was also the Counsel for Uganda. It's not like I'M calling up John Ashcroft to come over and play checkers. Goff has connections, so let's not make decisions that in the same light, but without the same amount of money or friendship connections. I get nervous that people will try to emulate his spontaneity, but not have the resources to be able to bail them out when bad things happen.

2. Love does need knowledge of what the Lord is like. One of the chapters talks about his "Bible doing," instead of a "Bible study." I get where he's going with this; let's do more action and less learning and sitting. I did feel like he became a bit patronizing to studying the Bible though. If we are just sitting around with our Bibles in our laps talking about good things we should be doing, how do can we know that what we're doing is actually the heart of God?

We need to know what brings him glory, what makes him angry, how it is that he shows patience. I can learn to do good things by simply going to a Rotary Club meeting or watching Dr. Phil. The heart of God is what motivates us to action and sustains us when we're weary.

3. Love being given and love needing to be received are sometimes different.  Towards the end of the book, he briefly mentions that the Ugandan government was simply taking too long to give them approval for their school, so they went ahead and built it anyway. While this might look bold and radical to an American reader, red flags were immediately raised in my mind. Too often I see Americans coming overseas and assuming what they are doing is most helpful. They skip over doing research or interviewing and just assume the ministry they are offering is just what these people are needing. Overseas, Americans already have a reputation for coming in like a linebacker into a quilting club. We knock people over and tear things apart all because we just wanted to make a difference. I appreciate the heart to help. (Just this past week I linked a great video about thinking we're being helpful. It's a parody on Toms Shoes. It's funny and fantastic. Here's the link)

We have to be wise and usually slow. Governments work slowly. Local authorities work slowly. Sometimes the government and the person in charge are two totally separate entities. It takes time to figure these things out. Training and equipping ourselves before we jump into a project will lead to a ministry that will stay for the long term. Burning bridges simply because we want to see our ministry "succeed" is arrogant and imperialistic.

4. Love can also mean common sense. Goff is clearly an adrenaline junkie. I felt like so many of his stories were just ones of him having whimsical fun and then challenging us to live our lives like that. But Scripture also very clearly tells us that there are wise and unwise ways of doing things.

I fear a 19-year old guy getting a hold of this book and then consequently dropping out of school to live in the jungles of Peru, building wells. He would have no training and no resources, but he would living life to the fullest and somehow that's to be commended. There are absolutely times that the Lord calls us to things that make little earthly sense. But I would say that most often, he puts people in our lives and training in our paths so that we can be the most effective witnesses possible. Let's not forsake those so that we can post, "You Only Live Once!" on your FB photos from Peru.

There seems to be a wave of adrenaline seeking Christians who aren't thinking about getting trained or how to humbly enter a place asking more questions than giving answers. This kind of zealousness is scary. Action is important, crucial even. Adventure is temporary. The adrenaline does wear off and if we're going to be in a place to make a long-term impact, we have to intimately know the God who sent us in the first place.

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