Book Review: Reclaiming Love by Ajith Fernando

by Pat Reeder

Ajith Fernando’s book Reclaiming Love could just as easily be called Reclaiming 1 Corinthians 13. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast.” Such citations are commonly found on inspirational posters featuring leaping dolphins, ocean spray and hazy sunrises. It is quoted at weddings and even mocked in movies like the popular comedy, Wedding Crashers. As this demonstrates, Scripture is not immune to the phenomenon encapsulated by the adage, familiarity breeds contempt.

Fernando breathes life back into this compact passage of Scripture expressing one of the most difficult aspects of Christian living: sacrificial love. It would be hard to find a better man for the job. For four decades, Fernando has faithfully led grass-roots movements among the urban poor of Sri Lanka. But, Fernando is more than a salt-of-the-earth Christian servant: he also deftly comments on the original Greek terms found in Paul’s epistle.The book opens with “Following the Way of Love.” Along with setting the stage for the rest of the book, he writes the following:

A few minutes before writing these words, I was mourning the fact that I had helped someone at considerable cost and he had not turned out the way I hoped. The thought came to me that I had wasted my time and energy and suffered unnecessarily…When we love, we are achieving the basic goal in the life of a Christian. Love is not only a means to an end; it is an end in itself.

I could not have put it better. Love is the way of Christ, the way of the cross.      

From chapters 3-18, Fernando takes his readers on a nearly word-for-word tour of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. On patience alone, Fernando spends three separate chapters.  Fernando points out that the word Paul uses, translated as ‘patience,’ specifically applies to relationships (over and above than the English word’s broader usage). Especially in the West, where people can barely hold marriages together, learning patience is essential for even the most rudimentary Christian service. The other chapters likewise challenge the "me-first" mindset of 21st Century America.

Fernando concludes with, “It’s Worth It!” where he draws from the remainder of the chapter (1 Corinthians 13: 8-13).  As the title suggests, this chapter is devoted to persuading the reader that living a life of sacrificial love is far more than dutiful drudgery. Following Paul’s lead, Fernando makes the case that love is not only the highest virtue, but it will be a central part of our eternal experience.

Just as Fernando reclaims love, he likewise reclaims this dense chapter of Scripture from its needle point fate amid the heaps of fifty-cent thrift store decorations. Between Fernando’s thoughtful exposition of Scripture and convicting anecdotes, the reader will benefit greatly from this rich little text. I highly recommend it!

Ajith Fernando will be teaching two breakout sessions on Patience at the Xenos Summer Institute (XSI). Find out all of the breakout session topics and register for the conference so you can reserve your spot in the breakout sessions you're interested in.