Reviews -- By: Mark R. Stevenson

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 16:2 (Winter 2007)
Article: Reviews
Author: Mark R. Stevenson


Mark R. Stevenson

Love or Die: Christ’s Wake-up Call to the Church. By Alexander Strauch, Littleton: Lewis and Roth, 2008, 112 pages, paperback, $9.99.

It is a strange thing to be a book reviewer.1 There are times when I spend weeks or months in anticipation of a new book, only to find it a great disappointment. And then there are times when a book just shows up—a book I didn’t even know existed—and it takes my breath away. Such was the case with Love or Die by Alexander Strauch. While the book is large in dimensions (8.8 x 5.9, so slightly larger than an average paperback), it is short in length, coming in at just 112 pages (which includes a study guide, indexes, and a couple of appendices). But despite its brevity, it packs quite a punch. I can think of few books I’ve read recently that have had so immediate an impact on me and have given me so much to think about. I trust that, with God’s help, the implications of this book will be with me always.

Love or Die is subtitled Christ’s Wake-Up Call to the Church and is an exposition of sorts of Revelation 2:2–6. In these verses, Christ praises the church at Ephesus for their works, their toil, their endurance, and their discernment. But he also rebukes this church saying, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.” He calls them to repent, in order that he not be forced to “remove [their] lampstand from its place.” This church, it seems, had once been marked by love, but somehow, in the intervening years, the love had been lost. The sound doctrine remained, but the love had waned. Christ gave them this simple admonition: love or die.

Strauch divides his exposition into two parts. In the first he reminds the Christian that it is possible to have sound doctrine, to be faithful to the gospel, to remain morally upright, and to have the appearance of godliness, even while lacking in love. To lack in love is to ignore some of Christ’s clearest, most urgent admonitions. And yet many Christians are marked more by an appearance of sound doctrine than by a true love for God and love for one another. When Christ saw this in the church at Ephesus, he reminded them to “remember therefore from where [they had] fallen.” In Christ’s assessment, the only assessment that truly matters, this church had fallen, and this despite Christ’s commendation of them. “Remember, there is always one who walks among the churches, unseen but seeing all. How do you imagine Christ might evaluate your local church body?” Love is to be the dis...

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