Who understands what love is? The ancient greeks used variants of the word for love to denote increasing levels of altruism. Medieval love was said to focus on the suffering that one feels “derived from the sight of and excessive meditation upon the beauty of the opposite sex”. Think of the sad, but pure, suffering of the Lady of Shallot as her lifeless and beautiful body floats towards her beloved Lancelot. In modern times, our understanding of love has been influenced by everyone from Bertrand Russell (“love is absolute value”) to Tina Turner’s ear worm (What is she saying there anyway?). Hollywood would have us think that love is an intense emotion that falls upon the lucky and beautiful, but mainstream America sees love in a more benign light that remembers its origins in suffering and altruism. Love is that anodyne influence which empowers us to endure, overlook and accommodate the behaviors of those we have committed to love — our parents, children, spouses, and friends.
Dan Allender couldn’t disagree more. In this book he puts forth his clarion call: love is bold. Bold enough to seek the greatest good, and pursue that good with the deepest passion using all means available. This passion adds an earthy realism to love, removing it from its baroque throne and bringing love right into the middle of our real relationships — relationships where love calls for the insertion of boundaries, and maybe, a little craftiness. To Allender, love does not blindly suffer — forgive and forget — it goes one step further than forgiving, forgetting and acquiescing. Setting aside manners and cultural expectations, through many anecdotes he builds the case that love is cunning, courageous, and, well, bold.
The heart of the book is about what it really means to love someone: from the love of your life, to an abuser, to your greatest enemy. It is a book written by a Christian for Christians and if there is not an orthodox understanding and appreciation of an the nature of Christ, I don’t think a good part of the book will resonate very well. Central to his argument is that God did not give up on creation. He sought after it at great expense to himself. This is what it means to love. Sacrifice and suffering? Yes. But any understanding of the cross, acknowledges Christ’s act to love to be the definitive act which brings victory to His own and defeat to the father of lies. The image of the cross is about as different from the Lady of Shallot as I can imagine.
Bold Love is divided into three sections: The Battlefield of the Heart, Strategy for the War of Love and Combat for the Soul. The first section builds a case for a deeper understanding of love based upon Christian Theology. “Strategy” gets practical — describing the steps toward reconciliation. Importantly all reconciliation needs to be fueled by a passionate hope for restoration, given focus by envisioning the ideal state of a difficult beloved. Allender then teaches how to confront and invoke the deep passions to work for us. In “Combat”, he gets more practical by classifying those who are difficult to love as evil, fools, or normal folks pursuing things wrongly and then provides concrete examples to deal with each.
His message came at the right time for me and has revolutionized the way I love, live, and forgive. A bit wordy in places, there is too much wisdom packed into this book to skip a single page. Often in the most unexpected places, I would be hit by a quote that would leave me speechless, and I would have to close book and just think for several minutes. I most definitely will read Bold Love again and recommend it to anyone who wants to better know the subject and practice of love.