Recently I finished Craig Gross and Jason Harper’s new book Jesus Loves You This I Know. To be completely honest, I was nervous when I began reading it. I have little tolerance for anything that advocates loving God at the expense of knowing Him. Honestly, I cringe when I hear people constantly say, “Jesus loves you, me, everyone…” without backing it up with qualifiers. The Bible never does this. For Instance, we read- “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son…”, “In this we know God loved us, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
There is always a qualifier. Hence my trepidation with this book.
But then I read it. Craig and Jason do a phenomenal job explaining the truth of God’s love and the judgment that was taken out on His Son. This is something that is severely lacking in American Christianity. We so often separate the truth of God from the love of God, so I was greatly pleased that they did not do this.
The book is ten chapters of the authors talking about their experiences with the love of God. From reaching the broken, the outcast and even religious with that love- Gross and Harper discuss what the love of God means for everyone. This truth of the love of God is extremely important for every believer today- especially for the religious (people like me). When ever things go wrong I default to religion. This kind of thinking results in thoughts such as, “my car broke down, what did I do wrong?” But what Craig discusses is the importance of knowing the love of God even if things are going wrong, even if you sin- and then Craig calls for repentance because of that love.
The point that they are getting accross is that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. Yes, they mean the whole world. So our message to the world must be: God loves. What happens is we are so used to the fact that God loves us, that we ignore it in our witness of Him. They try to get us, the Church, back on track with the truth of how Jesus lived and loved. Their argument (and I think it is a valid one) is that Jesus wouldn’t be the protester outside of the porn convention, the bar, or the gay parade; He would be living among the people showing them His love and drawing them unto Himself with His Spirit. We are the light of the world and must shine. Gross and Harper understand that the Gospel offends while understanding that we don’t have to be more offensive than the Gospel already is.
The Almost Good
For all the good in this book, I would offer some caution. For one, Jason’s chapters are slightly off road at some points. Both Gross and Harper talk about Jesus beginning a revolution (which usually throws a red flag up for me) but then Harper talks about how Jesus was found guilty for loving (chapter 5). While He did love the unlovable, that wasn’t the cause of His crucifixion. Harper later corrects this by speaking of Christ’s claims to deity being the reason why He was crucified (to me, a redeeming section). I was also left wondering about the plight of the people in the stories the authors told. They would talk about how they have reached out in community (good) and loved the “unlovable” (great!) but then they would occasionally drop off with seldom mention of a call to repentance or the message of salvation. I don’t mean that I was looking for one of them to lead a homosexual in the sinners prayer (if you read some past blogs, you’ll understand my position on that). However, at some point while in community with people- we must fulfill the Great Commission and make disciples. This means so much more than just providing for physical and emotional needs, but it cannot be separated from providing for these needs. In other words- we cannot expect to fulfill the Great Commission of Christ if we sit back and only tell people that God loves them meanwhile not providing their physical and emotional needs of food, money, community, and friendship (see James 2.15-16). That is simply something to be cautious of. In their defense, they probably have been working towards discipleship, but it is a difficult thing to portray in a book.
Who Needs This?
The fundamentalist, conservative, legalistic Christians are going to have a problem with this book not talking about how everyone is a sinner going to hell (as I said, I had a hard time not reverting to that thought). But at the same time, the liberal, emergent types will probably hate the amount of time both authors spend at the Cross talking about God’s judgment on His Son. I think that’s why they wrote this- to make us all uncomfortable in a good way. Being a Christian is not easy, loving people as God loves them is even harder- but that is what God has called us to. We are to proclaim the message of Christ- the message that says, No matter who you are or what you’ve done, Jesus loves you this I know.
Buy this book here