The Three Hardest Words in the World to Get Right Summary

Leonard Sweet


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In The Three Hardest Words in the World to Get Right, Leonard Sweet proposes that the phrase “I love you” is the hardest group of words in all of human language to live out. The phrase is fundamental to the Christian life, but its meaning and significance have become hidden by the regular and familiar way with which we use and misuse the words.

Sweet argues that the full power of the phrase “I love you” is being undermined by the culture in which we live. Postmodern society has embraced a lifestyle of selfishness, living purely for the pleasure and prosperity that life can provide right now. However, though it is called a lifestyle, selfishness is really only a meager attempt to survive life instead of fully living. Though society denies the value of a metanarrative, Sweet believes that we must again embrace a grand narrative as the necessary foundation on which the difficult phrase “I love you” is built.

The narrative to which Sweet points is the biblical story of redemption, proclaimed by Jesus Christ with the phrase “Your Kingdom come.” Sweet argues that the Kingdom is not an organization that we are to create on earth, but a reality, the Presence of Jesus, which is already in place and in which we are to join. When we join this narrative, we discover that the phrase “I love you” is the central concept of the Presence on earth, and each word represents an area of life where the Presence must make us new, thus enabling us to live a biblical lifestyle, an abundant, meaningful life.

“I” indicates the new identity that the Presence of Jesus brings. Humanity makes “I” the central component of daily living. The human tendency is to demand selfishly what we want, when we want it, often without regard for others. Some have responded to this tendency by attempting to demolish the self, to remake people into uniform, identical beings; however, the Presence creates a much different change. Instead of trying to make our own identities, we surrender our identities to Jesus, and he enables us to be our real selves. By giving up...

(The entire section is 856 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Allender, Dan B., and Tremper Longman. Bold Love. Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 1992. Describes the power of forgiving love and the call to, like God, risk ourselves in order to love the people around us.

Carson, D. A. The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2000. Attempts to delineate the common ideas and misconceptions about God’s love and reexamine them in light of the biblical texts.

Jacobsen, Douglas, and Rodney J. Sawatsky. Gracious Christianity: Living the Love We Profess. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2006. God’s love is a gracious love, and Christians must be characterized by these virtues in order to reach out to the unbelieving world.

MacArthur, John. The Love of God. Dallas, Tex.: Word, 1996. Discusses the biblical doctrine of the love of God and attempts to answer some specific questions about God’s love.