"The Message of Love" by Patrick Mitchel. A Review
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It’s a fuzzy subject that can evoke strong responses, and rarely gets defined because it’s assumed everyone simply “knows” what it is. I’m referring to that old four-letter word, “Love”. That’s what makes “The Message of Love: The Only Thing that Counts” by Patrick Mitchel, Senior Lecturer at the Irish Bible Institute in Dublin, and elder in Maynooth Community Church, Maynooth Ireland, such an important work. This 336-page softback is one of the newer installments in “The Bible Speaks Today” series edited by Derek Tidball. This volume is thorough, exegetical, thoughtful and engaging.
In the introduction Mitchel defines love, and then sets about to show how that definition differs from the alternatives served up today: romantic idealized love; hyper-sexualized love; all-inclusive love; and universal love. The author then asserts that “Christian love is increasingly at odds with contemporary romantic, sentimental and consumerist notions of love…There is nothing easy or soft about Christian love” (10). Next, he deposits his aim for the book that it is written for Christians, especially as we seek to hold together “the love and judgment of God, what it means to love and follow Jesus in a consumer culture or what it means that Christian marriage is a covenant of love” (op.cit.).
The lion’s share of the book, thenceforth, walks through sacred Scripture, from the Old Testament through Jesus to the church, expounding what the Bible actually says about love. Chapter after chapter the author carefully unpacks exemplary passages of Holy Writ. Throughout, Mitchel doesn’t shy away from God’s justice and judgment and its place in regard to divine love, but rather, he holds an unpopular but clearly scriptural line. As he states, “God is a lover but also a just judge. The Bible sees no incompatibility between divine love and judgment” (271). Similarly, he sticks to the ways God’s love, and his people’s love, really is costly and muscular. It is a book worth delving into! My only beef with the book is the fact it promotes an ethic of non-violence in any situation, if I’m reading it correctly. Since I am not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination, this was a bit disappointing for me. My only doubt in the book is the way it handles Ephesians 5:21-33, marriage, and submission, and yet completely skips Titus 2:5.
“The Message of Love” was a Christmas gift from my dear friend, Paul Rebelo, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have read it. I will be referring back to it for years to come. With the study guide in the back of the manuscript, this book would be ideal for a group Bible study. And I think every pastor who believes that the Scriptures are the final rule of faith and life should snatch up a copy and pour over it, with pen and highlighter in hand. I happily recommend the book.
The book can be purchased here: The Message of Love
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