Review by Meg
Genre: Christian Growth – 4.5 stars
Hopefully you aren’t sick of the concept/phrase/ theme of “love” yet (at the end of the week of our dearly beloved Valentine’s Day). I set this book up in my reading challenge to finish for this week, just to see what Paul Miller had to add to the love discussion.
His discussion of love may just be life changing for me.
I’m really not trying to resort to hyperbole as a means to get you to read this book – and I know I gush about a lot of books at times (I just really do love good books!). But truly, this book has done – is doing – a work in me. I’ve done several very in-depth studies on love – from I Corinthians 13 (the famous “love passage”); and I’ve read plenty of Shakespearean sonnets and E.B. Browning poetry in my time. I’m not a feelings-oriented person to begin with, so I’ve never gone for phrases like “falling in love” (or out of love). I prefer the concept that love is a choice of commitment. But A Loving Life just goes so much deeper, using the biblical story Ruth as an explanation and demonstration of genuine hesed love (translated “loving loyalty” or “steadfast love”).
Let me be clear about it: Miller’s book is not an expositional commentary on the book of Ruth. I’ve read a number of complaints about his seeming proof-texting. This is not meant to be an exegesis; it is a Christian Growth book. Also (once again keeping in mind it’s a Christian Growth book), this is not a fully-developed treatise on biblical hesed love.
Rather, A Loving Life is an everyman’s guide to learning about and seeing demonstrated in one book of the Bible the hard-but-glorious life-path that is hesed – the one-way love with no exit strategy. Those who truly desire to live selfless lives of love toward others have a difficult journey, one that involves suffering and death (think figuratively). If that sounds confusing, well then, just read the book. Miller does a much better (and more poetic) job at explaining.
I strongly recommend this book – it’s not just for marital relationships. We ALL have difficult people in our lives that need our Christ-like love, whether it’s a spouse, child, parent, friend, co-worker, fellow church member, etc. My husband and I are now reading through this together, and it has been such a good means to discussion and communication about our personal struggles with this – toward each other, our kids, and other people we know. I’m grateful for the wisdom of people like Paul Miller sharing both their insights and life stories on this important topic.
NOTE: One of the other complaints about the book from a few negative reviews I read centered on the idea that “some people love too much and end up in abusive situations.” My response to that is two-fold: 1) Miller does briefly deal with this issue, obviously stating that he’s NOT talking about staying in an abusive relationship. However, that wasn’t enough for some people, so 2) I think a little bit of common sense is in order here. For the most part, we are all selfish, potentially lazy people, and this kind of love is HARD. That is why a book like this is so needed. To throw the concept out because of certain extreme situations seems a bit short-sighted. I believe that anyone with a well-rounded knowledge and understanding of the Bible can discern that this kind of hesed love does not in any way mean “love someone to the point of enduring abuse.” But maybe this kind of common sense just isn’t obvious anymore – I don’t know. I’ll just end with another hearty “Read the book, and be changed!”
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