Review: Paul Miller’s A Loving Life

A Loving Life is an winsome exposition of Ruth through the lens of God’s covenant love. “‘[A]t the heart of love is incarnation that leads to death” Miller explains. “Death is at the center of love. It happened to Jesus. It happened to us’” (11). “Suffering is the crucible of love,” Miller says. “We don’t learn to how to love anywhere else. Don’t misunderstand; suffering doesn’t create love, but it is a hot-house where love can emerge” (19).

Love colors Miller’s exposition of Ruth in A Loving Life. It’s a focus that by necessity drives us into the narrow land where we will run headlong into Jesus Christ.

Central to understanding love is understanding the Old Testament term hesed (covenant love). It’s not a love founded on feeling but on faithfulness.

Sometimes hesed is translated “steadfast love.” It combines commitment with sacrifice. Hesed is one-way love. Love without an exit strategy. When you love with hesed love, you bind yourself to the object of your love, no matter what the response is. So if the object of your love snaps at you, you still love that person. If you’ve had an argument with your spouse in which you were slighted or not heard, you refuse to retaliate through silence or withholding your affection. Your response to the other person is entirely independent of how that person has treated you. Hesed is a stubborn love. (24)

He explores hesed within the tension of Ruth and Naomi’s story. It seemed God had not been faithful. Naomi seemed to lose everything. But God’s love shines in the gritty fallenness of this world. Naomi doesn’t respond cynically, but does acknowledge her struggles through a lament to God. Also, part of that driving towards Jesus is a hope for resurrection. Through out the A Loving Life, Miller provides hope by pointing towards resurrection. “[Knowing God is the master storyteller] lets me endure in love because I know Someone is guiding the story toward resurrection” (75 “This glimmer of resurrection hints of good things to come” 23).

Miller masterfully weaves the story of Ruth, the gospel, and application into a cohesive whole. It’s a book written with pastoral precision. It’s one you can give to someone who is hurting and suffering. He doesn’t theologize about pain. He directs his readers to the Jesus who suffered. He encourages honest lament. He provides hope for resurrection in the end. And he does all of this while standing firmly on the text.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”