I love books, and own quite a few, but I am usually content to borrow a good read for the sake of my budget. Yet after reading just a few chapters of Loving Well (Even if You Haven’t Been) by William P. Smith, I purchased my own copy and returned my borrowed one. This was a book I wanted to keep, write in, and have on my bookshelf to return to in the future as I grow personally in loving well and in counseling others on showing biblical love.
The Love of Christ
Each of the fifteen chapters showcases different aspects of the Lord’s love for us. Before Smith moves to writing on how we need to grow in loving well, he takes time to show from the pages of Scripture how God has modeled perfect love for us. Smith draws from passages in the Old Testament that demonstrate God’s deeply patient covenantal love for His people. He also includes God’s gracious, sacrificial love clearly portrayed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I found each chapter to be deeply encouraging and hopeful, because of the focus on meditating on God’s lovingkindness.
The chapters were also convicting (I’ll get to that in a moment), but I was repeatedly humbled by the lessons and reminders of my Savior’s abundant, faithful, and merciful love. I often felt led to give thanks and worship to Him who shows us such great love. Though we are utterly undeserving of such love and epically unfaithful to the true Lover of our souls, God has poured out His love into our hearts. This book first teaches that God has loved us well in deeply significant and compassionate ways.
Imitators of God
The love of Christ should control us (2 Corinthians 5:14). After presenting a specific facet of God’s love in each chapter, Smith then expounds in that chapter on how a deeper understanding of this love should control us in loving others well. We are to be imitators of God, so after contemplating God’s love for us, we should consider practical ways to imitate His love (Ephesians 5:1). Christ serves us; we are called to serve. God forgives us and forbears with us; we are called to forgive and forbear. The Lord pursues and shepherds us; we are called to pursue and minister to believers and nonbelievers alike. Time and again, I was faced with my poverty in loving others as I contemplated the riches of God’s love.
Smith included a host of helpful personal examples in his book. He humbly shares ways he has failed in loving well, while also pointing to God’s grace in his life and the lives of his friends and family when sharing stories of how they have grown in specifically imitating God‘s love. These real-life examples really flush out his points and show how Scripture should be practically applied to our relationships. As a single, I greatly appreciate that Smith’s personal anecdotes and examples cover a range of relationships. He does not just discuss showing biblical love in the setting of marriage or parenting, though stories of his wife and children frequently appear. He also highlights how the love of Christ can impact relationships in small groups, neighborhoods, the workplace, and churches, regardless of marital status.
Each chapter ends with questions to consider as you reflect on what you have just read. These questions urge you to consider both God’s love, and your response in imitating that love. The questions could serve as valuable homework tools if using the book as homework in a mentoring or counseling setting.
Freedom to Love
On our own, we are selfish creatures, too enslaved with sinful self-interest to love like Christ. However, as redeemed sons and daughters of God, we are set free from sin to love each other. Psalm 119:32 states, “I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” This book is a helpful signpost, pointing the way in running on the path of obeying God’s command to love others, all the while testifying that we are only free to run this path because of Christ dying once for all (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). I highly recommend this book as a resource to mediate on God’s love for you and to get you running more faithfully on the path of loving well.