Crazy Love by Francis Chan (Book Review)

Crazy Love

Outside of the Bible, there are very few books that I can say have truly changed the course of my life. Crazy Love by Francis Chan is one of them. So when I found out that a newly revised and updated edition was being published, I knew I had to review it. Thank you, David C Cook, for sending me a copy.

The premise of this book is simple. God’s love for us is crazy; we should therefore live a life of crazy love for him.

In the first chapter, Francis paints a picture of God—an awesome, beautiful, terrifying picture. From the start, we see just who this God we serve really is. Next, Francis describes who we are. When it comes down to it, we’re pretty insignificant. He compares us to a movie extra hidden away in the background of some scene, but we act as though we’re the star. Make no doubt about it, the “movie” of life is all about God, from start to finish.

But that’s not where it ends. After comparing our squalor to God’s splendor, we are shown that God loves us. For some utterly incomprehensible reason, the God of the universe loves us. He loves us so much that he sent his Son to die for us, to redeem us, to adopt us as his children.

To this point, the book has been building up to a spiritual high. We can bask in the wonders of grace and praise God for his incredible goodness to us. But Francis is not done yet.

Chapter four takes a different turn as we now examine an all-too-common response to God’s goodness—the lukewarm. These are the people who gladly receive God’s grace, but then they act as if nothing were different. They are happy to accept the sacrifice Jesus made for them, but they are unwilling to make any sacrifices of their own. Jesus says he will spew these people out of his mouth.

For a long time, I was one of them.

The next chapter, “Serving Leftovers to a Holy God,” is the one that has caused the most criticism for this book. I too found several areas of disagreement as I read it for a second time, although I did not notice them the first time I went through it.

Basically, Francis contends that “lukewarm Christians” are not truly Christians at all. By no means does he believe that we are saved by our works—it’s all by grace—but a complete lack of works is a pretty good indicator that saving faith has never occurred.

While I would take issue with the way a few things are phrased, I really think that much of it comes down to semantics. Whether you agree with Francis Chan’s semantics or not, this chapter is still a very effective reminder to “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5, ESV). And whether it’s a matter of true believers needing to wake up or unbelievers needing to repent, this call for change is a desperately needed one.

It’s exactly what I needed to hear when I read this book several years ago.

But Francis does not leave us there fearing for our salvation. The theme of this book is love, not fear, and “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18, ESV). So in the next chapter, Francis describes how we act toward those we love.

On a personal note, I had not yet fallen in love when I first read this book. But between my first reading and my recent re-reading, I met the love of my life. I courted, betrothed, and married her. And we now have a child, whom we both love more than we ever knew possible.

All that to say, I now have a much richer understanding of the type of love that Francis describes. But that did not prevent this concept from being very helpful to me when I read it before. We have received unfathomable love from our heavenly Father. Our service to him should simply be the returning of that love.

The next chapter, a clever play on a well-known Joel Osteen title, calls Christians to live “Your Best Life … Later.” This is where we get to the meat of the matter. Here is what really needs to change in our lives. We need to stop worrying so much about this life. We need to trust God more. And we need to start truly loving others, “not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18, ESV). Francis then spends the next chapter describing what such people should look like.

Chapter nine is probably my favorite part of the whole book. Francis recounts the stories of multiple real people who have given their all to follow Christ. If you’re emotional, this chapter may make you weep. Hopefully, these examples will spur you on “to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24, ESV).

The final chapter (in the original edition) brings it all together and wraps it up with an appeal to actually change as a result of what you’ve read. Feeling convicted is not in itself an accomplishment. Of course this change cannot come about through our own power. Rather, we are changed by submitting wholly to Jesus Christ and allowing his power to change us.

God has changed me a lot since I first read Crazy Love. I owe Francis Chan a debt of gratitude for allowing himself to be used by God to help change me.

The updated edition of Crazy Love kept the original text almost entirely intact, but it added a new preface, a footnote to chapter nine, and an eleventh chapter. This book also includes a sample chapter from Francis Chan’s latest book, Multiply, rather than the sample chapter from Forgotten God that my earlier copy includes.

In the footnote to chapter nine, Francis talks about a shift in his ministry. He learned to place less emphasis on buildings and sermons, and he instead started to focus on believers living shared lives together as the church. This is one of the aspects of Chan’s ministry that I most appreciate—his own willingness to change in response to God’s leading.

That brings us to the new chapter, “A Lot Should Change in Five Years.” Francis shares with us some of the many changes he and his family have gone through since writing Crazy Love. It would have been easy for Francis to brag about himself here, but it comes across with complete humility. And it’s encouraging to know that the author really is living his own message.

I simply cannot recommend Crazy Love enough. God has used this book and the ministry of Francis Chan in my life more than I can explain. I’m sure that Francis would be the first to give all the glory to God for it; nonetheless, this book is a tool that God used for me.

I pray that it may benefit you just as greatly.