“set a fire down in my soul
that I can’t contain and I can’t control
I want more of you, God
I want more of you, God…”
One among hundreds, I closed my eyes, tipped back my head and let the music wash through me. The power of the melody made me feel like Alice in Wonderland, standing bigger and taller with every minor chord. I felt the bass reverberate in my bones, like a heartbeat that swelled through the whole room. And in my chest, I felt my soul reaching out, out, out… for God, for his love, for his presence, for our forever.
That was what I wanted, more than anything in the world. God.
I wanted to be head over heels in love with him. So in touch with him that unbelievers sensed him in me the moment I opened my mouth. And so invested in him that it transfigured my whole lifestyle from the inside out.
Because if it was real, it’d change me. If it was real, people should be able to tell me apart from the non-believers. I shouldn’t be just like everyone else. I should be supercharged with his love… his crazy love.
I wanted to be on fire for God. No wonder I got burned.
“Profile of the Lukewarm”: Chapter 4
When I skim Chapter 4 of Crazy Love, memories of nights like the one above are what come swimming up. We (me and the Asian Baptist circle I ran in) called these nights “revivals.” Revivals were intense. They’re the closest thing I could get to a real concert as a sheltered born-again. Think dim lights, rooms (or stadiums) full of (usually teenaged) Christians, minor chord melodies and repetitive lyrics, and spontaneous, often-pleady prayers to God to “light a fire” in the room. They were supposed to inspire Christians to recommit to living out and believing in their faith.
The sermons were big on taking a long look at your life. Was there anything you were holding back from God? Any doubts? “Little” sins you let slide? My faith loved claiming it was real special, even the only true and life-changing religion out there. It needed the facts to back up its big talk. If we were really Christian, everyone should be able to tell. We should be so full of passion, kindness, optimism and joy that people noticed something different and wanted it too. Walking salesmen.
This is the sand Francis Chan builds his house on. Remember, his revolutionary idea is that God is way more powerful than American Christians think (Ch 1), we are actually so puny and mortal that even stress “reeks of arrogance” (Ch 2), and that being in love with God is necessary (Ch 3). If Christians really believe the Bible, and the Bible says God’s insanely powerful yet loving, then they oughta start acting like it, Chan says. In Chapter 4, he finally gets to the details… by telling us what real Christians don’t look like.
These Christians are “lukewarm.” For a subculture that has an entire section of music specifically for revivals and runs on a frankly weird desire to be set on spiritual fire, lukewarm is the last thing you wanna be. Chan explains why:
Jesus asks for everything. But we try to give him less. Jesus said,
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.” — Luke 14:34-35
Jesus isn’t just making a cute little analogy here. He is addressing those who aren’t willing to give everything, who won’t follow Him all the way. He is saying that lukewarm, halfhearted following is useless, that it sickens our souls…
How would you like to hear the Son of God say, ‘You would ruin manure?’ (81)
Every time I start wondering if maybe I made up how weirdly intense Chan is, he comes through with the new evidence. High-demand religion, anyone?
Chan insists that if Christians really believe in their God, they gotta live like it. And he has a specific idea of what that’s supposed to look like. To him, it’s adventure. It’s financial sacrifice. It’s radical. For some reason, American Christianity adores being edgy. Being uncool and unpopular has this reverse luster of being cool via the good ole martyr complex. Chan is all aboard this train.
In his words:
So there is an incalculable, faultless, eternal God who loves the frail beings He made with a crazy kind of love. Even though we could die at any moment and generally think our puny lives are pretty sweet compared to loving Him, He persists in loving us with unending, outrageous love.
The only way I know to respond is like the man in one of Christ’s parables:
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
— Matthew 13:44 (65-66)
Unsurprisingly, a lot of what Chan is gonna go on to push for in the next chapters revolves around money.
LUKEWARM PEOPLE tend to choose what is popular over what is right when they are in conflict. They desire to fit in both at church and outside of church; they care more about what people think of their actions (like church attendance and giving) than what God thinks of their hearts and lives.
LUKEWARM PEOPLE probably drink and swear less than average, but besides that, they really aren’t very different from your typical unbeliever. They equate their partially sanitized lives with holiness, but they couldn’t be more wrong.
Yeah, we all know Christians like this, and it’s a great point that hypocritical Christians do damage to their own reputation and church PR. That’s one of the things Chan wants to correct.
LUKEWARM PEOPLE don’t really want to be saved from their sin; they want only to be saved from the penalty of their sin. They don’t genuinely hate sin and aren’t truly sorry for it; they’re merely sorry because God is going to punish them. Lukewarm people don’t really believe that this new life Jesus offers is better than the old sinful one.
… Is this… surprising to Francis Chan? If you wanna set up the universe so people get horribly punished for doing one thing wrong, uh yeah, people are gonna wanna avoid it. That’s part of what people are saying is wrong with our prison systems and spanking (punitive justice), and why restorative justice (confronting offenders with the people they offended and repairing those relationships) is getting more popular. If God set up the universe so sinners had to confront the consequences their sins had on other people, instead of going to hell, maybe people would be truly sorry for their sin. Hell ain’t justice.
LUKEWARM PEOPLE say they love Jesus, and He is, indeed, a part of their lives. But only a part. They give him a section of their time, their money, and their thoughts, but He isn’t allowed to control their lives.
Again, high-demand religion anyone? Chan’s belief that anything less than total submission to God is arrogant and foolish crops up everywhere.
LUKEWARM PEOPLE give money to charity and to the church … as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living. If they have a little extra and it is easy and safe to give, they do so. After all, God loves a cheerful giver, right?
I also don’t get why Chan finds this surprising. People are wired to do what’s comfortable. The difference between me and Chan is that he believes people are obligated to give everything they have to God, because none of it can belong to them. It’s like a slave mentality.
That’s probably why he seems so put off by the idea of Christians living comfortably. It seems too selfish. As if they believe they have a right to possessions and comfort. But in Chan’s world, God has rights to everything. People are not even entitled to feeling stressed out without Chan’s judgment that this “reeks of arrogance.”
Chan wants American Christians to quit hypocrisy. To be such authentic believers that they sell their stuff and even move. To live out their intense faith.
I’ll see you next time, when Chan finally explains to us what his vision looks like!
P.S. I’ve a month behind on reviews because I moved from Boston, Massachusetts to Wellington, New Zealand for study abroad a week and 1/2 ago! It’s been crazy preparing and non-stop exploration, great company and good fun, but I really want to stay consistent with you guys (especially since more and more of you keep contacting me) so I’ll be back on the weekly schedule from here out. Check out some of my fav photos so far: