True love – understanding the real meaning of Christian love
James M. Renihan
EP Books; 144 pages; £8.99; ISBN: 08-5234-713-8
This is one of the best books I’ve read for a long time. True Love – understanding the real meaning of Christian love does exactly what it says on the cover. It is a verse-by-verse and phrase-by-phrase explanation of 1 Corinthians 13.
The first chapter, ‘An important place to begin’, explains what true love is. We must think of love in a completely different way from the world. The subheadings, ‘Love and the law’, ‘Love and the gospel’, ‘The source of our love’ and ‘The expression of our love’ show us how.
Why is there a whole chapter devoted to love in 1 Corinthians? This little book’s usefulness is enhanced because the author first sets these verses within the context of the whole letter, and then shows why they sit between Paul’s two chapters dealing with spiritual gifts.
But the real value of the book lies in the chapters that follow. Keeping an eye on what Paul’s teaching meant for its first readers, Renihan brings true love into the 21st century and challenges us to follow the Bible’s way of love: ‘Christian love is emotion in action; it is not one or the other… (Paul’s) description of love uses fifteen verbs – as if love were a living thing, able to think and move and do'(pp. 52-53).
Phrase-by-phrase these verses are applied searchingly to the heart and conscience. And in this he is gently unrelenting. As we need it, individual words are explained and real life illustrations are brought before us. We can see ourselves in them; and at times this is uncomfortable.
James Renihan has done us a great service. How should you read this book? In small parts, meditating prayerfully on each portion (the chapter subheadings are ideal for this). Buy this book and read it. Love is practical, so buy it for your friends. Because it’s in hardback, it will be an ideal, long-lasting gift.