Book Review: Love Does by Bob Goff

What would our Christian life look like if we truly strove to love people like Jesus does?

Bob Goff is a man who writes with a gentle storytelling ease, but he is staunchly firm in this conviction: Love is not just a feeling. It is not a thought. Love is an active force that demands our participation. Love is not merely the willful decision to love someone, but the risky and sacrificial step of actually stepping out of our comfort zone to really do something about it. In short: Love does.

And in the book Love Does, Goff supports this thesis through a series of first-person stories, told breezily yet always compellingly. While calling the author Goff would better fit the critical standard, I get the sense that he would prefer that I call him Bob. So I will.

Bob is a courageous man of adventure, a Jesus-following lawyer with a family he loves fiercely, and someone who still maintains a measure of whimsy in his spirit. His tales travel from oceans to mountains, from Hawaii to Uganda, from broken-down cars to the finest meals, from romance to youthful indiscretion.

Do you remember the Chicken Soup books? Chicken Soup for the Soul. Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul. Chicken Soup for the Accountant’s SoulChicken Soup for the Soul of a Church Plant Pastor Who Also Dabbles in Oil Pantings. I would compare the structure and tone of Love Does to a Chicken Soup book, except that it’s less like chicken soup and more like a can of beans heated over a campfire, or a few granola bars stuffed into a backpack on the way out your door.

Each chapter of Love Does begins with a little lesson Bob has learned, then proceeds with the experience that taught him. A few themes emerge consistently: You can achieve grand results when you step out in faith without a plan. When you love people like Jesus does, not everyone will understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and that’s okay. A crucial component of Christian ministry is to be intentional in who you surround yourself and lock arms with.

I hesitate to call this “my one critique,” but something I did feel in my reading was the impression that Bob writes so conversationally, so informally, that if you’re looking for a step-by-step guide on how to love people more intentionally, I imagine many of the stories are not directly relatable — when Bob talks about taking his kids out of school to fly to Europe, or purchasing a fine painting just because he really likes it (even though it costs more than most of his cars), or living in a neighborhood where someone gives his son a truck as a gift, you may experience a disconnect. Maybe this is not an issue for most readers; but if it was, I think Bob would encourage the truth that you can live a lovingly adventuresome life no matter what stage you’re in, because it’s simply about trying to live like Christ.

This is the great feat of the book: By emphasizing the simple-yet-profound idea of loving people like Jesus loves people, Bob writes within a framework that is theologically unassailable. This work is not a dusty tome that dives headlong into the weeds of scriptural analysis and longform religiosity; rather, it sneaks Biblical messages into casual tales. For example, I was struck by the cleverness of a chapter all about performing loving deeds in secret, yet not once does it cite Jesus’s direct support for this line of thinking in Matthew 6. In fact, Love Does is not real big on citing specific verses at all, yet the references are there nonetheless.

Out of context, this may sound like a bad thing. “What do you mean it doesn’t cite the Bible when talking about Jesus?” But if you can imagine sitting with an acquaintance and teaching them by way of example, by way of story and analogy (similar to how Christ taught), you can appreciate the efficacy at work here.

The conversational tone, the use of storytelling over scripture, and the supposed simplicity of its ideas may lend one to believe that Love Does is best suited for young Christians. But let me be clear, and honest: Even the most ‘veteran’ Christian can use a refresher on loving like Jesus, and this book will touch anyone who is just seeking more out of their walk of faith. At the very least, it is entertaining.

Bob has a love for what he calls capers, these maybe-a-bit-mischievous adventures (and misadventures!) we launch into without much forethought, that may involve some danger and some very trusting friends, and result in a story that relays a truthful lesson. He is a fan of whimsy, and creativity, and stepping out of the norm.

On a personal note: This speaks to me. I used to be a capers guy. I’ve been in ministry settings where I was notorious for always being the last one in bed and the first one up, for having more energy than sense, and for sometimes waking up on a Saturday morning in the middle of a field or on a rooftop trying to remember how I got there.

It’s encouraging, then, to be reminded that even as an Adult with a day job and a family, there is still room for whimsy and lighthearted excitement in my faith. Jesus was not content to follow the same everyday routine of waking up, going to work, coming home, then watching TV before falling asleep. Neither will I be.

I would recommend Love Does for any Christian, really. It is an easy read that communicates truth through enjoyable stories. It is a call to action that tugs at the heart. It will speak especially well to anyone who just wants to love people like Jesus does, and is willing to start stepping out of their safety net in order to do so.

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