Although the title is close to cliché in True Love: Understanding the Real Meaning of Christian Love, James M. Renihan offers his readers a creative and insightful explanation of the Bible’s popular “love chapter”—1 Corinthians 13—which promises to be a rewarding use of the reader’s time. What originally began as a series of sermons, Renihan turned into this book after seeing the impact that love, as the root of the Christian faith, can have on lives when understood and practiced. In 144 pages, Renihan skillfully unpacks the meaning of true love—a subject that has been either twisted by a secular definition or overused and forgotten in Christian circles.
By dissecting the chapter of 1 Corinthians 13 in a succinct way, Renihan depicts the importance of true love as the root of every believer’s daily life, plus the crucial impact it can have in the church community. With an approach similar to a commentary, this book proves to be an easy, enjoyable, and applicable text. Renihan digs into the surprising original meaning of words that help the passage come alive with refreshing insight and purpose. Also, he focuses not only on chapter 13, but successfully weaves in a taste of the history of the book of 1 Corinthians by focusing on the context of what was going on in the Corinthian church at the time of Paul’s writing. Dr. Renihan has served as a pastor of several churches, and is currently a Dean and Professor of Historical Theology at the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies at Westminster Seminary in California, Escondido.
“Love is, because God is, and every definition of love must take account of the relationship between God and love” (p. 122). This book is written from the heart of a pastor with the gentle understanding that no love can come from a heart unless a real love relationship with Christ exists in it.
This book will change the way the book of 1 Corinthians is viewed, with the hopes of encouraging the reader to receive a knowledgeable invasion of true Christ-love. One potential weakness is that there is more emphasis on what the believer can do to love God and others and not as much focus on God’s love and what that looks like to the reader. Clearly written with adults in mind, the book carries a directness that high school and college-aged readers will understand and enjoy. No one can be overly reminded of the true love that God desires to permeate every Christian’s heart and mind. – Laurie Filson, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Christian love is central to the life of every believer. When Paul speaks of the work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus' followers, love is the first item he mentions (Galatians 5:22); when our Savior prepared his disciples for the events of that final night in Jerusalem, and everything that would come after, he spoke to them about love (John 13). It is no overstatement to say that love is at the root of the Christian faith - it is God's abiding and everlasting love that gives impetus to the incarnation of Christ and the redemption of his people.
At first glance, it is surprising that there is so little literature available about love. There may be different reasons for this. While the topic is very important, it is also difficult. Love is not easily defined. In some ways, it is simpler to experience love than to characterize it. Similarly, no author should think that he or she adequately understands, and especially expresses love. When we ask ourselves questions such as ‘Am I qualified to write to others about love?' we recognize how far short of the standard we come. We are all striving after a better expression of this grace.