Book Review: Love Does, by Bob Goff
Thomas Nelson Press, 2012. 224 pages, $16.99.
Reviewed by Dave Cummings
Hey, tell me haven’t you heard?
Luv is a serious word.
Hey, I think it’s time you learned.
I don’t care what you say,
I don’t care what you heard.
The word luv, luv is a verb!
In 1994, the band dc Talk won a Dove Award for Rap/Hip Hop Recorded Song of the Year with “Luv Is a Verb.” When I first became a Christian in the mid-1990s and discovered dc Talk’s music, I was always singing this song. And ever since I picked up Bob Goff’s book Love Does a couple months ago, dc Talk has been in my head again. Love Does could have easily been titled Love Is a Verb!
Love Does is a whimsical stroll through Bob Goff’s mad adventures pursuing justice and love in the world. His escapades take the reader from a makeshift office on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland to makeshift jail cells holding children in Uganda.
Goff’s writing style is refreshingly simple. Each short chapter has a single, clear, message. The format is predictable, beginning with an outrageous story from his own life, followed by a lesson that is either directly derived from the story or connected by metaphor.
Love Does is by no means a theological work, but instead an accessible and deeply spiritual book about the central theme of Scripture: Love. Goff doesn’t assume the reader holds a degree in biblical studies, or that such an education is even necessary to follow after Christ. The gospel message of love is for everyone.
There are numerous themes running throughout the book, but three stand out as essential to his message.
- Nothing is impossible for God. Our God is huge. He has big power and big plans. But our prayers are too small and our vision of God is too small and our dreams are too small. We need to recapture a biblical view of the God of the universe, and then live life accordingly. Goff writes, “What I’ve learned the more time I’ve spent following Jesus is that God delights in answering our impossible prayers… Prayers asking for the things we couldn’t possibly think could happen for us or someone else… He hears our impossible, audacious prayers for ourselves and others. And He delights in forgiving us and then answering those prayers by letting us return home to Him.”
- Following Jesus, Goff argues, is supposed to be an adventure, full of risk. Living out the Great Commandment, living out a life of love, doesn’t happen from the safety of our living rooms. It doesn’t even happen in our Sunday morning church services or Wednesday night Bible studies. Jesus told His disciples, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves” (Matthew 10:16) – not exactly a call to the safe life. According to Goff, the Christian life requires spontaneity, whimsy, and a willingness to live life without an agenda.
He says, “… go after those things he’s made us to love. It’s not all planned out for us either, and that’s where people get too nervous to take the next step. But know this: when Jesus invites us on an adventure, He shapes who we become with what happens along the way.” This idea of spontaneity and whimsy as essential ingredients in adventure with God runs throughout the book.
If we don’t go after the things that matter most, we’re likely to accomplish very little of value: “I used to be afraid of failing at the things that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” How much of what we do each day amounts to anything eternal? How much of what the church does amounts to anything eternal? We can’t be afraid, Goff tells us, to take the risky road for the sake of the gospel.
- And of course, the central theme of the book is that love does. In other words, love is a choice that leads to action. Nike has been urging us to live our lives for years: Just Do It! Jesus’ message was not one of mere philosophy and ideals, but a call to action. What did He tell people to do if they wanted to follow Him? Take up a cross each day. Give away all their possessions. Care for the poor, the sick, and the widows.
James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith, but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if not accompanied by action, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)
Goff makes this argument, that love requires action, continuously throughout the book. Here are a few memorable quotes.
“Jesus continues to select broken people and splattered people not just as followers but as participants.”
“We were all meant to save many lives.”
“I want to pick a fight because I want someone else’s suffering to matter more to me. I want to slug it out where I can make a difference. God says He wants us to battle injustice, to look out for orphans and widows, to give sacrificially… God wants us to get some skin in the game and to help make a tangible difference.”
If I found any fault in Love Does, it is Goff’s way of telling stories that only someone with unlimited resources could pull off: spontaneous trips around the world with his kids, a flight from LA to New York just to humor a friend, sailing from California to Hawaii with buddies, and vacations at the family cabin on the coast of British Columbia. However, while many readers may not be able to relate to the freedom Goff seems to have to go on virtually any adventure that comes his way, the paired illustrations and life lessons he shares are nonetheless exciting, challenging, and impactful.
This book is important enough and accessible enough that my 13-year old son and I are beginning to read it together. I strongly recommend Love Does to anyone who calls himself or herself a Christ follower and wants to know what love really looks like. Remember, love isn’t just an idea – it’s a verb!