This is not a girly book.
I know, I was apprehensive at first as well. A book which has “love” in the title once, let alone twice, is clearly aimed at the female audience, right? Wrong.
In our culture, love has become something wishy-washy, something touchy-feely, something mainly for women and best to be ignored (or at best faked) by the men. Love is romantic comedies, it’s smelling flowers in the park, skipping along while birds sweetly serenade two star-struck lovers. What can a book about love possibly have to say to us in the real world? According to Phil Ryken, everything.
You see, we read in the scriptures that God is love; we read about Jesus who passionately, fiercely, sacrificially loved his people; and we read that Jesus’ desire for those who follow him is that they would love one another with the same passionate, fierce, sacrificial love with which he has loved us.
The problem is, I don’t. At least, that’s what this book has taught me. The staff team at Knighton has been working through this book this term and every week, I have seen how I am, in fact, full of self-love, not sacrificial love. It has revealed to me that I don’t put others first, I don’t forgive easily, I don’t respond to irritating people with grace, I don’t move towards people who would push me away. I don’t.
But I want to. I want to because Ryken laces every chapter with demonstrations of how Jesus did all these things perfectly and how through his power I can love in the same way.
If you read this book on your own, it will challenge, help and encourage you. If you read with a group – a prayer triplet, a home group, as a couple – it may well transform you; how you think about others, how you respond to others, how you view yourself.
In many ways, this is not a pleasant read – it shows me things about myself I would rather not see. But it is a vital read. I would not be unhappy if every member of Knighton Free Church had this book on their bookshelf.
As long as it doesn’t stay there.