Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Review: Love Acceptance and Forgiveness

Jerry Cook pastored at East Hill Church in Gresham, OR for 19 years and was an associate pastor at Eastside Foursquare Church in Kirkland, WA for several years after that. Since his retirement in 2007, he has continued to work as a church consultant and speaker across the United States and internationally.

In addition to Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness, Jerry has authored and co authored several other books including A Few Things I’ve Learned Since I knew it All, Choosing to Love: The Odyssey of a Relationship, Trusting God When You Have Cancer, and his newest (which I am very excited to read) The Monday Morning Church: Out of the Sanctuary and Into the Streets.

I first read Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness over a year ago. It was probably the most impacting book I had read during 2009. Since then, I have struggled to write a review or response to it. This is the kind of book that you simply cannot boil down to a single theme without doing it a gross injustice. There’s a lot of meat here.

So, rather than give you a comprehensive review of all the principles presented in this book, let me share just a few observations about the book itself as well what I believe to be the most powerful truth presented within it. If you want more (and you should!) you'll have to read it yourself.
This is a book written to Christians who are committed to the church

If you are one of the many Christians in the world who have given up on “organized religion” then this book is not written to you. However, I believe that, if you are one of these people, this book just may change your mind.

In fact, one of the things I find the most powerful about this book is that it points out the flaw in how we operate as an organized church, but then shows how we have an obligation as Christians to commit to Jesus Christ’s church and apply the truths to change how we operate as a body of believers.

This is an incredibly practical book

I love a book that moves me; insightful and inspirational books are candy to me. However, on many occasions, a profound book can leave you feeling inspired and moved but without the tools to actually make that inspiration into something tangible in your life. Because of this, even powerful moving truths dissipate with time. Love Acceptance and Forgiveness kicks you in the rear in the first chapter and then spends the rest of the book telling you how that truth specifically applies to how we do church.

This is a book for today

While the truths in this book are timeless, especially those in the first chapter, this book is written specifically to the Church today.

What I believe to be the greatest insight of this book is found in the first chapter, “A Place Where People Are Made Whole”

“If the church—the living presence of Christ in His people—is to be the force for God in the world that it should be, it must learn to love people, accept them and forgive them…people need to be saved and brought to wholeness in every area of their lives. But before there can be a coming to wholeness, certain guarantees must be made to them. Otherwise, they will not risk opening themselves to us enough to receive healing.[emp added]
If the sign-wielding, street corner evangelists and the modern repent-or-be-damned prophets (or people like me, for that matter) are any indication, Christians often believe that the world needs to be told that they are sinning. Jerry suggests that it is not enough for a Christian to simply preach a message of repentance. If the church is to truly be the presence of God in the world, it must demonstrate the sacrificial love modeled and preached by Jesus Christ himself. Until it does, it will never be an effective force for Christ in the world.

Jerry Cook defines love as a commitment to a person which is independent of emotion or circumstances. He describes this commitment in frightening detail:
“We need to extend this love to everyone: ‘I want you to know that I’m committed to you. You’ll never knowingly suffer at my hands. I’ll never say or do anything, knowingly to hurt you. I’ll always in every circumstance seek to help you and support you. If you’re down and I can lift you up, I’ll do that. Anything I have that you need, I’ll share with you; and if need be, I’ll give it to you. No matter what I find out about you and no matter what happens in the future, either good or bad, my commitment to you will never change. And there’s nothing you can do about it. You don’t have to respond. I love you, and that’s what it means.’” [emp added]
Instead of stopping with a personal exhortation, he places this truth as a filter upon how we operate as a church.
“When [people] say, ‘We’re going to write off the church, but we surely do love and believe in Jesus,’ something is seriously wrong.”
While many authors, unfortunately, merely criticize the church for not being like Christ, Jerry spends the rest of Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness demonstrating how, by simply shifting our understanding of the philosophy and function of the church to fit the principles set by Jesus Christ, principles of unwavering love, universal acceptance, and unconditional forgiveness, we can actually see the personality of Jesus reflected in His body.

And this is exciting.

--Sarah Elizabeth

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