Francis Chan’s mother died giving birth to him. The only affection he can remember receiving from his father lasted about thirty seconds when he was on the way to his stepmother’s funeral aged nine. When he was twelve, his father also died. Francis cried, but also felt relieved.
Francis is now a pastor. He and his wife, Lisa, have seven children. When his children were born, his own love for his children and his desire for their love was so strong that it opened his eyes to how much God desires and loves us. He said, ‘Through this experience, I came to understand that my desire for my children is only a faint echo of God’s great love for me and for every person he made… I love my kids so much it hurts.’
Calling his first book Crazy Love, he wrote, ‘The idea of Crazy Love has to do with our relationship with God. All my life I’ve heard people say, “God loves you.” It’s probably the most insane statement you could make to say that the eternal Creator of this universe is in love with me. There is a response that ought to take place in believers, a crazy reaction to that love. Do you really understand what God has done for you? If so, why is your response so lukewarm?’
The word ‘zeal’ implies an intense or passionate desire. It can be misdirected, but as Paul writes, it is right to be zealous provided that the purpose is good (Galatians 4:18). Elsewhere he says, ‘Never be lacking in zeal’ (Romans 12:11). Perhaps a good modern translation of the word ‘zeal’ is ‘crazy love’.
‘Crazy love’ for God’s housePsalm 69:1-12
David loves God so much that it feels like anyone insulting God is insulting him. It’s painful to hear people blaspheming God: ‘The insults of those that insult you fall on me’ (v.9b).
David writes, ‘… zeal for your house consumes me’ (v.9a). He was so passionate about God’s house because that was the symbolic place of God’s presence with his people. The Message explains the zeal he expresses in this verse: ‘Because I’m madly in love with you’ (v.9a, MSG).
These words are applied by the disciples to Jesus when he cleanses the temple (John 2:17). Out of zeal for God’s house, Jesus drove off those who were trying to profit from a place of worship, taking advantage of those who wanted to draw near to God.
David is passionate about not bringing God’s name into disrepute. He does not want anyone to be disgraced because of him: ‘Don’t let those who look to you in hope be discouraged by what happens to me’ (Psalm 69:6, MSG). He knows his folly and guilt – as I know mine: ‘God, you know every sin I’ve committed; My life’s a wide-open book before you’ (v.5, MSG). David is concerned that this should not bring dishonour to God’s house.
Today, God’s house – the temple – is Christ and his body, his church (1 Peter 2:5). There is nothing wrong with being passionate about the church. Be zealous to see God’s name honoured in his church today.
Personally, I am inspired when I see a zeal for God’s house – a passion in worship, a ‘leaning in’ to the talks, an amazing welcome for every new person.
Passion is inspiring and infectious. We need more crazy love in the church today.
Lord, consume me with zeal for your name and your church.
‘Crazy love’ for JesusJohn 21:1-25
This is the third time Jesus has appeared to his disciples (his fourth including Mary Magdalene) (v.14).
Jesus appears in the ordinariness of simple daily life. You do not necessarily need to do extraordinary things. Jesus meets you wherever you are. Peter is fishing. Six of the disciples join him. Jesus tells them where to catch fish and then cooks breakfast for them. Here is Jesus risen from the dead – the one through whom the whole universe came into being – saying to his friends, ‘Come and have breakfast’ (v.12). The God who is revealed in Jesus Christ is life-affirming and such fun!
When John recognised Jesus he exclaimed to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ (v.7a). Peter is so filled with excitement, enthusiasm and zeal to get to Jesus as quickly as he can that ‘he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water’ (v.7b).
Sometimes in our enthusiasm and zeal we may do some rather crazy things. But what matters is a heart of love and zeal for Jesus. Peter’s eyes were riveted on Jesus. All he wanted was to be with Jesus.
In Jesus’ conversation with Peter after breakfast, we see what it means to have this passionate love for Jesus:
- Supreme love
Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?’ (v.15). ‘These’ may refer to his fishing gear or the other disciples. Whatever it means, Jesus was calling him to make his love for Jesus his supreme love. Our love for Jesus should be more than our love for anything else.
Peter’s zeal had not been without its obstacles. He had denied Jesus three times, so Jesus gives him the opportunity to affirm his love three times. Three times Peter tells Jesus, ‘I love you’ (vv.15–17).
- Sacrificial love
Jesus hints to Peter that his love and zeal for Jesus and his church is going to be costly. Indeed, it would cost Peter his life. Jesus says to him, ‘“When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God’ (vv.18–19). This is the earliest evidence for the martyrdom of Peter by crucifixion. To be a follower of Jesus is a dangerous undertaking.
When Peter is told this he turns, sees John and asks about his future. In this intimate moment with Jesus, Peter is distracted by comparison with John. Jesus politely tells him to mind his own business – something worth remembering when we are tempted to compare ourselves with others.
- Servant love
Each time Peter tells Jesus ‘I love you’, Jesus tells Peter, ‘Feed my lambs… Take care of my sheep… Feed my sheep’ (vv.15–17). Peter can only guide, nourish and be responsible for people if he loves Jesus passionately.
Then Jesus says to Peter very simply, ‘Follow me!’ (v.19). This crazy love for Jesus means following his example of love. Jesus showed the supreme example of servant love. He said, ‘Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (15:13). He gave a very practical example of what this kind of servant love involved, when he washed the disciples’ feet (John 13). It is a commitment to help people, whatever we feel about them, to grow in their love for Jesus, not seeking to control them but to liberate them.
Jesus calls you to the same kind of love. Express your passionate love for Jesus by a passionate love for other people, giving yourself to take care of his sheep.
Peter was willing to make Jesus the supreme love of his life; he was willing to pay the price and to follow in his footsteps of servant love. He loved the one who did so many things in his brief life on earth that ‘if every one of them were written down… the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written’ (21:25).
Lord, help me to love you as Peter did – to be zealous for you. Help me to feed your lambs, take care of your sheep and be willing to pay the price, whatever it is, to follow you to the end.
‘Crazy love’ for unity2 Samuel 2:8-3:21
With the death of Saul, Israel and Judah were divided. Abner called out to Joab, ‘Are we going to keep killing each other till doomsday? Don’t you know that nothing but bitterness will come from this?’ (2:26, MSG). This cry has a very modern ring as we see the continued turbulence and division in the Middle East.
‘The war… lasted a long time’ (3:1). ‘Then Abner sent messengers on his behalf to say to David, “Whose land is it?”’ (v.12). Again, this is a question still asked today.
Abner went on to say, ‘Make an agreement with me, and I will help you bring all Israel over to you’ (v.12). Eventually this happened and for a time, at least, the land enjoyed unity.
Disunity is so destructive. We see it in the Middle East today. We see it in the church today. We should be passionate for unity.
Lord, I pray for a peaceful and just solution in the Middle East. Help me also to be passionate in pursuing peace, unity and reconciliation in your church.
2 Samuel 3:14–16
‘Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins.” So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.’
I know Michal was legally betrothed to David, but I’m not sure this is the best pastoral decision. Her poor husband Paltiel seemed really upset. Michal wasn’t consulted and David hardly needed any more wives, he already had at least six (2 Samuel 3:2–5). I think she would have been much happier if she’d been left with Paltiel.
Verse of the Day
‘Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down… the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written’ (John 21:25).
Francis Chan, Crazy Love, (David C Cook, First edition, 2009) pp.54–55,179.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.