Lately, I’ve heard certain Protestants use the phrase “66-book love letter” to describe the Bible. For example, the rapper Lecrae uses it in Prayin’ for You (“I pray he’ll open up the sixty-six book love letter you wrote and soak it up”), Dr. Larry Crab has a book on the Bible called 66 Love Letters, etc.
I love the heart of what this phrase is expressing. Too often, we speak of Scripture as if it’s a rule book; much better to understand it as a love letter, inasmuch as it’s an expression of the love of God. Just read a passage like 1 John 3:1-2,
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Understood legalistically, the passage makes sense. There’s no rule expressed here, telling us to do this or not to do that. It’s just a reminder that God loves us so much, and a reminder of the good things He has done and will do for us.
You can’t understand these passages if your approach is to think about Scripture as a law book. On the other hand, you can understand the legal passages of Scripture if you think about the Bible as an expression of God’s love. After all, Deuteronomy 10:12-13 explains that even these rules were an act of love, done for our own good:
And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I command you this day for your good?
So in terms of a hermeneutic, treating the Bible as a collection of love letters rather than a legal code is a generally-great shift, and a long overdue one. But I would caveat that endorsement in three ways.
First, calling it a “66-book love letter” forgets about the other 7 books. The early Christians had more Biblical books than modern Protestants do. Understood in this framework, these are love letters lost in the Reformation.
Second, it forgets God’s living “love letter,” the Church. Listen to how St. Paul addresses the Church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 3:1-3):
Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you, or from you? You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.
So the Bible itself says that God’s love letter to humanity isn’t just the Bible… it’s also the Church.
Third, there’s a risk of over-sentimentalizing. We want the fresh romance of a new love, and the beginning of the spiritual life can feel like that sometimes. But we’re called to something more than that, to something very much like marriage (Ephesians 5:25-31). And just as every couple finds out after the wedding, things get more complicated once kids enter the picture. The Christian life is hard not because Jesus is hard to love, but because other people are. The Scriptures (and the Church!) are a revelation of God’s love, but sometimes that’s a tough love. Hebrews 12:5b-7 says:
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?
So God’s revelation is absolutely a “love letter” of sort, but it’s more than that: it’s a declaration of His marriage to us, and His intention to carry us home. That’s a call to more than a superficial “me and Jesus” relationship: it’s a call to live the sometimes messy and frustrating life of the Bride of Christ.