The Chans self-published this book in order to make it free, although donations are accepted and versions and a study guide can be purcahsed. It was the free download of the month at ChristianAudio.com in February. My wife and I listened it together on a car ride. We both found it humbling, convicting, and thought-provoking. I highly recommend it to anyone who is married or engaged. There is much more in this brief book, so read it for yourself.
Francis Chan is one of the few Christians who really lives out his theology. If Jesus says our blood relatives aren't the most important thing, and Romans 8 is true for Christians, then why do we act like it's such a sacrifice to send family overseas or get angry at God if a child dies "prematurely?" Don't we know that all things come from God's hand and sovereign love? Don't we know our time here is momentary and the purpose is to be ambassadors for Christ alone? Why don't we act like it? That was sort of the point of Crazy Love and this book is no different.
The book does not give specific how-to tips on dealing with conflict, intimacy, and communication issues. Plenty of other books have been written for those. This deals with putting your marriage on mission and looking at marriage in light of eternity. The book is Scripture-soaked with more references and long quotes than perhaps any other marriage book I have ever read. I found out about the book while listening to Chan's guest appearance on John Piper's podcast. This is very much Piper's Desiring God and Don't Waste Your Life set to marriage.
Chapter One is titled "Marriage Isn't That Great," making the blunt point that marriage is temporary and that our love for our spouse (or children or grandchildren) should pale in light of our love for Jesus. If you'd rather see your kids grow up than see Jesus, then your family is an idol. If you worry what will happen to your kids when you're gone, then you've misunderstood God's providence. The ultimate prescription for marital health is getting on the same "team" in regards to mission. The Chans compare it to a sports team working toward a common goal-- the individuals of the team are diverse and may not get along as friends, but they build camaraderie working toward a prize they can only win together. That's marriage.
In the chapter on marital conflict, "Learn to Fight Well," Chan holds up that our conflicts would vanish if we would truly consider our spouse as better than ourselves and surrender what we selfishly see as our rights or entitlements. Husbands should give themselves up in service just as Christ gave himself up for the church, and wives should follow his leadership. Husbands should point their families to Jesus in all that they do (p. 78):
"Practically speaking, this will mean encouraging her in her time alone with God. Sacrifice to make sure she has time. It will mean reminding her not to love the world or the things of the world. Keep her focus eternal. It will mean guiding her towards acts of love that will result in eternal reward. Men, have you ever considered your role as a husband in these terms? This is huge."We should love our wives so much and so extravagantly that it should be remarkable to those who see it, and that opens the door for us to share the Gospel (p. 80):
"Here's a blueprint for marriage:
1. We become overwhelmed by Christ's care for us.
2. So we shower our wives with the same love we receive from God.
3. Then, people are shocked by our extravagant love toward our wives.
4. As a result, we are given an opportunity to tell them about the love of Christ that compels us.
Sadly, very few marriages work this way...But this can all change. It starts with you rejoicing about being a member of Christ's body...This has to be our motivation."
I appreciated his thoughts on grace in parenting, similar to Elyse Fitzpatrick's Give Them Grace. Our children's salvation does not depend on us, but is up to God. This frees us from works-based parenting where we put pressure on ourselves to bend our children's behavior toward God somehow. He does recount the long and difficult period of praying for a daughter who went wayward, sharing the joy of seeing her choose Christ and go on mission with the family. We should weave the Gospel into every situation and speak to their hearts. "Don't let a day go by without talking about heaven...We have raised kids who aren't overly afraid of death....(they) are prepared for the time that mom and dad go to be with Jesus" (p. 169). "This mission is too important to squander because of our insecurities, our longing for comfort, or our fears" (p. 180).
"If I am in a third world country helping to find solutions to poverty and starvation, and my kids are home crying because they miss me, my wife quickly reminds them how blessed they are to have a dad who is out caring for others...The moment I come home, I reassure them of how much I missed them and how I wish I could just stay with them all the time. And then I remind them again about the mission...it's important for them to understand that the mission involves saving people from eternal torment, so we must all be willing to make sacrifices for a greater purpose. In fact, if they don't see the sacrifices made, they will later question whether or not we truly believe what we say we believe" (p. 167).
Chan posits that 75 percent of church-raised children leave the church when they turn 18 because "they see the gap between our supposed beliefs and our actions and decide not to join the hypocrisy."
The book also reads a bit like Platt's Radical. Chan holds up examples of families, including his own, who have taken in homeless people into their crowded lives in order to minister to them. Of radical adoptions and financial poverty, etc. One can think of a myriad of examples that would be difficult to flesh out in reality. His advice on financial matters is sort of the opposite of Dave Ramsey's Legacy mentality-- don't worry about leaving an inheritance to your kids as that might "[impede] their growth as servants" (p. 165). He argues that "God likes seeing children care for their parents" rather than the parents insuring they need no support.
The Chans close the book with a powerful prayer for marriages (P. 190-191).
"May we spend our married days reminding each other of Your glory, Your gospel, Your love, Your power, Your mission, and Your promise of what is to come."4.5 stars out of 5.