Bryan Loritts. Saving the Saved: How Jesus Saved Us from Try-Harder Christianity into Performance-Free Love. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016. See here to buy the book.
Bryan Loritts pastors the Abundant Life Christian Fellowship in Mountain View, California.
This book does talk about embracing and living in light of God’s
performance-free love: that God loves you freely, and you do not have to
perform well morally or spiritually to earn God’s love.
At the same time, the book does argue that, if you are not performing
at a certain level morally or spiritually, then that is a sign that you
have not truly embraced God’s performance-free love. According to
Loritts, if you are unforgiving, if you are ungenerous, if you lack
sorrow for sin, etc., then that may indicate that you have failed to
embrace God’s performance-free love. What does that imply exactly?
That a person is actually unsaved and is going to hell? Lorritts never
says this explicitly, but he does refer to last judgment passages of
Scripture in his discussions.
I have long had a problem with that kind of mentality. It looks to
me like legalism disguised as “performance-free love.” Even if that is
what the Bible teaches, I have a problem with it. And making one’s
spiritual maturity a matter of salvation only adds to the pressure, for,
in that case, if a person falls below a certain standard, then he or
she is going to hell. My impression is that Loritts is trying to take
away that kind of pressure, but what he says may add to it, instead.
Still, I somewhat agree that the criteria that Loritts discusses can
provide a decent spiritual barometer, a way for people to take their own
spiritual temperature. Speaking about the Sermon on the Mount, Loritts
states that, if we find ourselves worrying, then that may indicate an
attachment to this world more than to God. That can actually influence a
person to stop and to take a personal inventory, and hopefully to
pursue constructive change.
And yet, even here, can people truly control how they feel? Loritts
speaks against performance and relying on law, yet his unstated
assumption often seems to be that, if he can provide people with a
rationale to feel, think, and behave righteously, then they will feel,
think, and behave righteously. That is relying on law. Loritts says a
lot of good things about, say, why we should forgive, and he tells
inspiring, tear-jerking stories about love and faith. But he should
recognize that the spirit may be willing, but the flesh is weak.
I have to give the book credit where credit is due, though. Loritts
is honest about his own spiritual and moral struggles. There are
instances in which Loritts looks for a grace-friendly message in
frightening and troubling Bible passages. Loritts actually tries to
address the sort of objections that I am making, about whether what he
is advocating is truly performance-free Christianity.
And Loritts is emphatic that people need new-covenant, transformed
hearts to be righteous. He should have gone into more detail, however,
about how people can get or cultivate such hearts—-how they can abide in
Jesus, since that is what Loritts believes is the solution. Suppose
that you think you are a Christian, and you do not see the spiritual
fruit that Loritts says you are supposed to have. What do you do next?
Try harder? The title of the book says that’s a no-no!
I am still giving this book four stars, though, because it does have good stories, about Loritts and people he has known.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers. My review is honest!