There are many books on love. Not all of them are good. They don’t seem to get to the heart of the matter- loving others is hard. By love I’m not talking about warm, fuzzy feelings. But sacrificing yourself for them day in and day out. Actually, it goes beyond hard.
“The problem is that we are less loving than we think we are and a lot less loving than we ought to be.”
Phil Ryken has written an excellent book on love with Loving the Way Jesus Loves. He brings us through 1 Corinthians 13 and illustrates each aspect of love from the earthly ministry of Jesus. As a result, you get a very Christ-centered book. Jesus is not merely an example to follow. He is the One who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Gal. 2:20). Apart from being loved by Him, we cannot love (see 1 John 3-4).
“He does not love us merely to love us but also to love others through us as we learn to love the way that he loves.”
This book is not a commentary. It draws from a number of commentaries and books by godly people thru the ages, but it isn’t academic in tone. It is pastoral in tone. While he is honest about our failures to love, he is not condemning. He offers hope in Christ who loved us and laid down His life for us. It is … gently convicting. I certainly felt convicted much of the time. I didn’t feel condemned. I felt I still needed to grow, and Jesus was at work growing me. But that is about me, this is about the book.
In a sense, the book is structured “artificially”. He structures it not according to the order Paul uses, but rearranged them so the life of Jesus is in chronological order. I think the book is better for that.
“This is what love does: it lets the needs of others set our agenda, rather than letting our agenda limit how much we are willing to serve- …”
In the process of explaining the nature of love, he reveals to us how unloving much of what we do really is. We don’t really ponder the true nature of things like irritability. It is only as we own up to the true of that matter that we will be set free to love. It is only as we repent of these things that we will begin to act in ways more consistent with love.
Ryken blends exegetical insights, biblical illustrations, helpful words from the saints of old (Edwards, Chrysostom, Tertullian and more), events from the lives of ordinary people and of course Jesus to offer a most helpful book about love. It is not about idealism. It is about how Jesus loves us, and how He teaches us to love others. This is a great need in the church, and Ryken provides some effective medicine for our disease.