Book Review--"Love Does" by Bob Goff

Readers of Donald Miller's excellent book "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" were introduced to Bob Goff, a man who I'd swear is a fictional hero if Miller didn't insist he was a real person. Goff sounds like he's too good to be true.

The Good
The stories in Miller's book are pretty amazing: his kids invited themselves to meet with the leader of every nation in the world, and 29 presidents, kings,  and princes took them up on it. Goff started a New Year's day parade in which several blocks of neighbors participate. He managed to push through several judicial reforms in Uganda which resulted in kids being freed and witch doctors being put out of business. And that's just the start.

Bob Goff is a real person, and he's the real deal; he loves Jesus and has a desire to use what he has to show the love of Jesus in tangible, life-changing ways to as many people as he can. One cannot help but be inspired by reading these stories, and the life lessons that often come with them.

In fact, "inspired" is the key word here. Goff's book, "Love Does" is designed specifically to inspire the reader to live his/her life to the fullest. Not by checking things off of some bucket list, but by using their gifts and available resources to make the world a better place.

When "Love Does" stays on mission, it accomplishes its mission: it's a particularly inspiring read, set apart from many books written with similar intentions. You really get the impression that you, the reader, can make great things happen, with Jesus as your guide.

The Part I Wish Was Different
I say "when it stay on mission" for good reason.  Sporadically and unpredictably, the book deviates from that mission to offer bits and pieces of the author's theology. Ironically, many of these tidbits contain criticisms of those who are stuck on making sure that one's theology is correct. It seems that Goff is just as prone as the rest of us to insist that his perspective on things is the correct one. This idea seems to be on a collision course with itself.

Over the years, there has been a trend among Christian authors to call out those who they deem to be judgmental, and in the process, they become judgmental about judgmental people. Seems like every author/pastor from John Piper to Donald Miller to John Eldredge to Rob Bell to John MacArthur has had moments where they proclaim "Most Christians are not living the Christian life the right way. I am the exception; come be like me." The fact that the group of those who have made this declaration is so dissimilar is at once sad and bewildering. And now Goff seems to be falling into the same trap. 

Using the analogy of a basketball team: depending on abilities and physical gifts, one type of player is best at being a shooter, another is a guard, while a third player may be a good defender. The team that wins is the one that has the right people in place, doing the things they were made to do. What "Love Does" seems to forget is that the world, and the Church, needs the folks he subtly calls out:  black & white thinkers, the ones who study theology, the ones who call out sin; in other words, the ones who are very different from him. These folks, subject to borderline derision in a few spots in "Love Does", have their place, and play an important role in the world.  If everyone was like them, it would be a disaster. But Goff seems to dismiss them altogether, or at least to minimize their importance.

The Verdict
Thankfully, those kinds of things are not a large part of the book. The first few chapters are as heart-tugging as it gets. The last few chapters challenge the reader to act out his or her faith. The middle ones, however, seem to be there just to make the book go over a minimum number of pages.

Too bad. Strip "Love Does" down to about 150 pages by removing the theology which pretends to not be theology as well as the filler, and you'd be left with one of the most beautifully written books I've ever had the pleasure to read. As it is, it's still pretty darn good.

Disclaimer: Thomas Nelson, the publisher of "Love Does" provided a copy of this book to me for review purposes.

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