I've been accused of hating Christian books, movies, and music. It's an accurate accusation. And this book by Paul E. Miller is a great example of why.
I'm trying to find the silver-lining in life, people, and thoughts because I don't want to be a bitter old man who complains about everyone and everything. So I tried with this book, and sure enough, there are some. Things like:
Suffering is the crucible for love. We don't learn how to love anywhere else. Don't misunderstand; suffering doesn't create love, but it is a hot-house where love can emerge . . . the death of self offers ideal growing conditions for love.
One of the oddest things about deep suffering is that the sun comes up in the morning. Life limps along.
One of the hardest parts of a hesed love is that you can love others, but there may be no one to love you. The very act of loving can make you lonely.
But then he uses phrases like, "Your life energy needs to come from God" and I begin to lose interest. But that isn't enough to toss the book because I'm sure I too use similar language at times and really, so what if he says a phrase differently than I'd like.
This book is damaging and frustrating not because of a few shallow phrases, but because of it's arrogance. All throughout, Miller uses his family and himself as the standard for esed love. The story of Naomi and Ruth are his structure and outline, but he is the center of book: his advice, his love, and his actions - the saving of a remote African village was perhaps the most disturbing. "I can endure in love for these people . . . I recruited teams, raised funds, and planned strategy . . . I loved them from above" - like Boaz! He literally spends two pages talking about how he saved this village and then relates himself to the savior of the Naomi story!
Who is this book about again?
Equally disturbing, but in contrast to the saved-by-a-white-foreigner story is the arrogance with which he looks down on Paula - the woman with five children from five different husbands who can't work, needs money, wisdom on how to live life, and is completely without anything redeemable - even morals. And that is exactly how Paul E. Miller sees her: a project that needs him. The way he describes her is ruthless and pious. No grace. No kindness. He actually says, "Frankly, I was disgusted with her choices" and concludes her story with a callous, "A few years later she got cancer and passed away."
His reflection on the woman and her life is "I assumed her appreciation of our care meant repentance. It didn't. I helped her situation but not her soul. But my biggest regret was that I didn't stay in touch with her sons."
This is why "Christian" literature bothers me. It often takes a story, pads layers upon layers of possible intent, then spends the majority of the time talking about self, then sells it as a brilliant and new way of living.
The simple gospel truth of "remember the poor" doesn't need explanation.
(As a side note, the continual assumption that the reader is of such low understanding and cognitive ability frightens me. Here's an example: "The Hebrew for "she sat beside the reapers" suggests that Ruth sat down at the side of or next to the reapers." And there's about half a dozen such examples in this book.)
The best part of this book is when he writes:
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love (Eph. 4:2)
Bear with one another and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you (Col. 3:13)
In repentance and rest is your salvation (Isaiah 30:15)
When you give a dinner or banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, let they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just (Luke 14:12-14)
I think Paul E. Miller means well, that he has done some pretty great things, and that I am probably being unfair at the least and hypocritical at best. I'm aware that, as I write my critique, I am exuding the same critical nature he showed Paula. So I don't want to write him off as worthless or someone in need of something I can provide. What have I done or written? Am I able to cast the first stone?
I would just rather not read this type of literature.