Have you ever closed a book wishing you could be friends with the author? I felt this way by the end of the foreword in the book Love Does by Bob Goff, where author, Donald Miller (of Blue Like Jazz fame) introduces his friend:
“Bob Goff loves people with a force that is natural, and by natural I mean like nature, like a waterfall or wind or waves on the ocean…. Those I’ve introduced Bob to, and there have been many, find it hard to put into words what is different about him. But the title of this book says it all. Where you and I may want to love and feel love and say love, Bob reminds us that love does things. It writes a letter and gets on a plane. It orders pizza and jumps in a lake. It hugs and prays and cries and sings. Much of what we’ve come to know and believe about love doesn’t ring true once you know this man whose love does.”
Who wouldn’t want to know someone like that? Our lonely world “has been shouting over the noise of our programs that it doesn’t need more presidents or organizations, what it needs are more friends.” A love that “does” naturally makes friends; it can’t help it!
As a teen in the early days of being a Christ follower, Goff encountered Christians whose faith was drenched with love. “What I learned… about the brand of love Jesus offers is that it’s more about presence than undertaking a project,” he writes. “It’s a brand of love that doesn’t just think about good things, or agree with them, or talk about them. What I learned…reinforced the simple truth that continues to weave itself into the tapestry of every great story: Love does.” This is what this book calls the reader to: when our life is affected by Christ’s love in such a way, it turns things upside down and we begin to love in a 360-kind of way. Christ-like love was never meant to and cannot be a conceptual thing, but proves itself in the things we do and say, live and sacrifice for.
There are so many incredible stories connected to the author’s life in this book. When love does it begins to move our hands and feet, making for excellent tales of adventure (“capers”): sailing trips he was mostly unprepared for, his courtship with his wife (he pursued her for three years), his admission to law school (he waited in the hall for seven days until they finally got tired of him), his many hilarious pranks, his child’s 10th birthday adventures, having sleepovers with world leaders, rescuing children from prison in Third World countries; stories that were engaging and entertaining and ultimately, compelling. I found myself laughing out loud, blinking back tears, marking up pages – and wanting to follow Goff around for a bit.
A lawyer by profession, Goff seems pretty un-lawyerlike. He rides a skateboard to work and his office is, quite often, a picnic table in Disneyland’s Tom Sawyer’s Island; he loves nothing better than spontaneous experiences, doesn’t allow reason to get in the way of whimsy, will drop everything for a friend, revels in joy, risks much for a worthy cause, and is always calling others, no matter what condition they’re in, to participate in Jesus’ kingdom adventure. He argues that we don’t need to be special; we just need to say “yes.” He writes: “I learned that fully loving and fully living are not only synonymous, but the kind of life that Jesus invites us to be a part of.”
Jesus was famous for wandering off the safe trails so that people could have an encounter with him. Why would following his example look any different today? Goff writes,
“Most people vow to themselves some time in high school or college not to be typical. But still, they just kind of loop back to it somehow. Like the circular rails of a train at an amusement park, the scripts we know offer a brand of security, of predictability, of safety for us. But the problem is, they only take us where we’ve already been. They loop us back to places where everyone can easily go, not necessarily where we were made to go.”
So many Christ followers settle for lives that are not affected by love, and naturally end up not affecting others. For me, one of the strongest chapters in the book talked about our stale tendency to study Jesus, to analyze his words and memorize wonderful things about him, yet do little with what we know.
“I used to think I could learn about Jesus by studying Him,” Goff writes, “but now I know Jesus doesn’t want stalkers.” It’s a good word for what we so often do. He argues Jesus was never satisfied with people who simply agreed with him. To love Jesus was to participate with him in the things he was about.
As the church, we’ve always struggled to “move out” when our natural leaning is to stay “in.” The excuse people make is that they need to know more, or require further equipping. Yet, we need to spur one another on to live it now and to lead others to do the same. Goff talks about a group of people he has met with for years and how they don’t call their group a Bible study but a “Bible doing.” Studying has its place, but what a safe place it is.
In a funny, yet true, description of what so often happens in studies, Goff describes how a group he attended talked about the word “dead.” They analyzed it in Greek and Hebrew, and discussed the differences between the two definitions. Goff writes this about the leader of that group:
“Then he’d ask us a compelling question. Something like, ‘When was the last time you felt dead?’ Huh? I asked myself. Honestly, who really needs to hear a definition of dead? And what difference did it make? I wanted to talk about how I could do a better job following Jesus, how to practice kindness, and what might be possible to do with my faith before I’m the Greek or the Hebrew version of dead.”
Goff talks about how we need to get out and live life more like a pickup basketball game. Not everyone is good at playing every position, “You just bring all the game you’ve got. Not surprisingly, the game you’ve got always seems to be enough.” Every day has so much potential to experience love and to share love with others – and it isn’t all studied, neat and tidy, and figured out. Goff writes,
“When people ask me what it looks like to follow Jesus, I usually say that following Him looks like dealing with all the issues everyone else does – disappointments, tremendous joy, uncertainty, the whole bit – and having your mind change all the time as you learn how Jesus would’ve dealt with things.”
This is what Jesus’ love compels us to do!
I think the way Goff ends his book carries a lot of punch. In a book about being available to love others in real time, he does something I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else do: he gives every reader his phone number and writes, “give me a call sometime if I can be helpful.” Now that’s a love that does.