Book Review – Reclaiming Love: Radical Relationships in a Complex World by Ajith Fernando

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 13)

The Apostle Paul’s explanation of the importance of love in the life of the believer is perhaps one of the best known and beloved chapters in all of Scripture. Furthermore, Jesus noted in Luke 10:27 that the two greatest commandments or that which encompasses all of the Law and the Prophets is the requirement to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Seems simple enough but anyone who has been alive for more than two minutes fully understands applying these two passages of Scripture to everyday life is far easier said than done. In a world where counterfeit love is often the name of the game, understanding what biblical love is and more importantly, how this proper type of love plays out in our everyday relationships is sorely needed. Author Ajith Fernando, in his book Reclaiming Love: Radical Relationships in a Complex World provides a timely and salient biblical approach to understanding the biblical concept of love and how to apply that to our everyday lives.

Fernando notes from the start “for the Christian, love is a priority; it is an act of obedience…Christian love is decisive; we must make it happen.” Now before someone tries to assert that Fernando is saying we can love of our own accord, something we now is not true given the dearth of true love in our world today, Fernando qualifies that initial statement by aptly noting “God’s love enters us and then pushes us to act in love. Our part is to obey. Obedience is the key that opens the floodgates of God’s love, so that we will be supplied with the strength to love in the way the Bible asks us to.” This is a very important point to remember, as it is the Holy Spirit working in our lives through the process of sanctification that results in the believer bearing the fruit of the Spirit in their life. One important fruit is that of love. A believer who is bearing this fruit in their life will in turn be properly loving God and loving others thus adhering to and obeying the intent and spirit of God’s law.

The Corinthian Church to whom Paul was writing was placing an overemphasis on the more glamorous spiritual gifts such as tongues and prophecy. In response to this misplaced understanding and approach to spiritual gifts, Paul reminded the believers at Corinth that without a proper foundation of love in all they do, these other gifts are nothing but a noisy gong. Fernando provides some interesting and valuable background on exactly what that phrase noisy gong means which is very helpful in order to understand the point Paul is driving home. This phrase noisy going “literally means “echoing bronze.” The Greek city of Corinth, where the recipients of this letter lived, was famous for producing a special bronze alloy, and we know that cymbals were frequently used in their pagan worship. So Paul may be alluding to the godless, pagan worship of the city where he speaks of gifts exercised without love.” In essence, he is telling the Corinthians that though speaking in tongues may appear spectacular and spiritual, without love it is no better than the practice of worshiping idols.” I found this to be extremely valuable insight and such background truly reveals the necessity of love as the basis for all we do. While certain spiritual gifts may seem more spiritual than others, in reality they are nothing without love that focuses on glorifying God and loving others in the bonds of Christian fellowship.

When we give, it must be done in a spirit of love and not to bring attention to ourselves. Fernando even notes the reality than in the course of church history, people even desired to be a martyr because they felt it would bring them some element of notoriety and honor. He rightly notes “People can make sacrifices with the aim of receiving personal glory through it.” Once again, this is nothing but a noisy going that seeks to aim the spotlight on oneself rather than letting our actions of love bring glory to God.

Fernando does a marvelous job of outlining the characteristics of biblical love in this book. For example, he reminds the reader of the importance of the word Paul chose in I Corinthians 13 to describe love as to be patient. Fernando aptly comments “This is significant because the Greek verb we translate “is patient,” along with its corresponding noun (patience), appear fifteen times in the New Testament to describe the character of believers. In addition, it is used six times to describe the character of God’s attitude toward us…The Greek word Paul uses here (makrothymeo) generally refers to patience that is extended toward people.” This really speaks to what patience is all about. As we all know, it is difficult to extend love to other people either because of their shortcomings or our own shortcomings. Understanding that love involves patience and long-suffering while also noting this is how God demonstrates His love towards us, namely people who are filthy sinners in need of redemption, will only serve to help us comprehend the importance of love being a foundation for all we do.

The author spends the remainder of this excellent book noting each element of love and how that plays out in our daily lives, specifically the aspects of love outlined by the Apostle Paul in I Corinthians 13. Each chapter is replete with sound biblical exegesis, relevant life examples, and applicable recommendations on how we can demonstrate love towards God and others.

For anyone desiring to have a holistic understanding of what the Apostle Paul is saying true biblical love is or how we are to love God and love others in keeping with Jesus’ words in Luke 10:27, Ajith Fernando’s Reclaiming Love is an excellent place to start. He cogently engages I Corinthians 13 with great wisdom and insight, noting for the reader the importance of love in the life of the believer. In a world where relationships are indeed complex, this book provides salient commentary on how to truly reclaim love as the starting point for our relationships, something that may require a true paradigm shift in thought, a radical shift in approach if you will for many people.

I received this for free from for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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