Denise Spencer: An invitation to bold love

An Invitation to Bold Love
A book every lover of grace needs to read
by Denise Day Spencer

I’ve asked the best writer in the house–my wife–to pen a review and recommendation of a book that clarifies some of the most common misunderstandings about grace. Does grace mean embracing and accepting everything? Abuse? Cruelty? How does gracious forgiveness also come to us as transforming love? Hopefully, you’ll read the review and want to read this excellent book. (The iMonk)

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“I have to forgive no matter what…don’t I?”

“We’re supposed forgive and forget…aren’t we?”

“We need to forgive others unconditionally…don’t we?”

“No!” thunder Dr. Dan B. Allender and Dr. Tremper Longman III. In Bold Love (NavPress 1992) Allender and Longman deal with the topic of forgiveness from a uniquely Christian perspective. Anyone who has ever needed to forgive can benefit from reading this book, whether the offense was horrible abuse or an unkind word.

Warning: be careful. It’s not what you think.

They begin by discussing the characteristics of love, and by exploring the question, “Why don’t we love better?” The authors point to our commitment to finding life apart from dependence on God as the main factor that makes it difficult to love and forgive others. They illustrate how sin affects all of our relationships, and how Christ is our “Divine Warrior” who helps us battle sin. It’s interesting, helpful, and best of all, absolutely true. But Allender and Longman are just getting started.
The surprises begin when they turn the average Christian’s concept of forgiveness upside-down. I don’t want to give away too many spoilers here. (I want you to read this book!) I will, however, share enough to give you just a taste of the feast these authors are dishing up.

Forgiveness of others is a process worked in us by the Holy Spirit, not a once-and-for-all occurrence. Forgiving another does not mean forgetting the offense. When we forgive someone it should not be unconditional or one-sided: “Forgiveness is an invitation to reconciliation, not the blind, cheap granting of it.” The authors go so far as to say that without true repentance on the part of the offender, we should not grant forgiveness. So what is repentance? “Deep, heart-changing acknowledgment of sin and a radical redirection of life.” Glossing over sin and acting as if it never happened is not forgiveness, and is actually a refusal to love the one who has hurt you.

Do you like the sound of this? Have you been too easy on those who have offended you? No, true forgiveness isn’t cheap for your enemy. But it can also cost you more than you have ever imagined.
he heart and soul of Bold Love is the path Allender and Longman blaze for the one who has been hurt. They challenge the reader in ways almost unimaginable. They demand the seemingly impossible. They sound alarmingly like…well…Jesus.

For “bold love” is “courageously setting aside our personal agenda to move humbly into the world of others with their well-being in view, willing to risk further pain in our souls, in order to be an aroma of life to some and an aroma of death to others.”
Wait just a minute. Why would I want to move into the world of someone who has hurt me? Allender and Longman throw down the gauntlet and dare the reader to pick it up. Why should you? Because you are on His side, and this is war. Let’s hear another definition: “Bold love is the tenacious, irrepressible energy to do good in order to surprise and conquer evil.” (You do want good to win over evil, don’t you?)

The authors challenge the reader to exercise forgiving love, “the inconceivable, unexplainable pursuit of the offender by the offended for the sake of restored relationship with God, self and others.” Do you long for true redemption—not cheap forgiveness or simply pretending nothing ever happened, but earnestly desiring that your enemy repent and be the person God intended him to be? And (here’s where it really gets tricky) if that ever did happen, could you grant him the restoration of relationship? Would you?

At this point Longman and Allender put forth a deliciously provocative look at the notion of revenge. Once again, it’s not what you expect. I don’t even want to give this one away. It’s too good; you’ll just have to read it for yourself.
In keeping with the theme of warfare, the authors explore at length the concept of surprising your enemy by doing good. The last section of the book examines how we are to love three different types of enemies: truly evil people, fools, and simpletons. Their stated premise is that “different kinds of ‘good gifts’ are required to impact different kinds of people with truth and life.”

Throughout the book, Allender makes liberal use of examples from his own family and from many of his counseling situations. He shows the reader what bold love can look like—and just how difficult it can be. He is, if anything, brutally honest. He never says this will be easy.
But then, neither is, “Take up your cross and follow Me.” And when it’s all said and done, that’s exactly what bold love is all about.

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