Friday, January 13, 2012

Love Wins
So I've been reading a book by Rob Bell called Love Wins. Whoa. Goooooood book. Really makes you think and has some very different views that you just don't hear much. I've read so many books on Christianity that in most cases, I can tell you what the book is going to say without reading much of it. Not to say that I'm that all-knowing - no, no, no; this speaks more to a lack of variety in Christian writing which baffles me. God in all his creativity can be summed up in something I can predict in my 30+ years of life? Give me a break... So, when this came along it was a refreshing change.

Apparently, prior to picking Love Wins to read, I didn't realize that this book had created quite the stir amongst the conservative Christian community as a whole. I shouldn't be surprised but now that I have read it, I don't get what all the fuss is about. Are there thoughts presented that challenge current evangelical Christian doctrine? Yes. But is that such a bad thing? I don't think so.

The response, which I came across by accident, shows the exact issue that Bell is trying to push back against. People getting so caught up in their theology, their argument, their view of what is right and wrong that they missed the point.

The book's theme is that God loves people.
Plain and simple.
And people are up in arms over it.

He takes a different way of getting to the point. He wants the emphasis taken off of judging each other. He offers other views of heaven and hell that are not traditional. But once you get to his point, there should be no argument.

Traditional view: Heaven is this separate place where we suddenly change into these perfect beings and live in mansions.
Bell's view: Heaven is a place that we need to be ready to live in (in a more dormitory style, by the way) so we should prep for it now. Is the way we're living now going to fit into heaven?

Traditional view: Hell is this separate place where non-believers go for eternal damnation.
Bell's view: While that place may be, there are people on this earth that find hell to be a very real place right now. Is there a way through our love for Christ that we can alleviate their current hell before getting them to be concerned with the one characturized with the devil & his horns & pitchfork?

At least that's what I got out of it.
New thoughts but ones that challenged me to be a better Christian now.
And what's wrong with that?

I mean...sure, the theological differences could be debated all day long. At the very tiny Bible college I went to, where most people held similar conservative beliefs, there were debates all day long over similar issues. Issues with much more minute points to debate than what are offered here.

But if somone picks up Love Wins and hears that there is a God that loves them, that maybe his love is so vast that he may offer opportunity on the other side of this life to be with him in eternity if we chose wrong here, that despite all the theology that's debated over and over what really matters to God is that we experience his love - is that really that bad? Do people honestly feel so threatened by these ideas that they think God can't take it? That somehow the emphasis on a loving God and not judging others will somehow diminish God's power?

There's such a concern with making sure that people understand the "law" so they can follow it to a tee and can put expectations on each other to live a perfect life that clearly isn't attainable in human form. There is very little trust that God can deal with people individually and therefore teachings (not just group teachings but private ones as well) are directed at the whole rather than the individual. Anyone with experience working at a company that forms a policy binder should know exactly what I'm talking about...

The company starts small. The owner knows each employee and when there are issues, the owner knows them and deals with each person individually. Employee #1 is given leniency because he shows he can handle it. Employee #2 isn't offered the same leniency because it's clear he can't handle it. Each person is dealt with at their own level of competence, experience, learning, etc.

The company grows. The owner doesn't know everyone so well anymore. Suddenly, where Employee #2 would've been dealt with individually before, now a policy is put into place that everyone has to follow. It sucks for those who can handle the leniency. Everyone ends up getting brought to the same level - the lowest one. And there is clearly a fear for anyone who tries to take what leniencies they had before because then everyone will want to have it.

Sound familiar?

So back to Bell - the thought is that if the Christian community doesn't rail against these new thoughts, there will be people that <gasp!> actually believe them and they will think that just because Bell alluded to the fact that you can still get to heaven even if you make bad choices on earth that no one will choose to follow now and then what if that's not true and then those people go to hell and then God holds us accountable for not standing up against the false teaching and...

You get my point? We're so worried about all the what-ifs that it's hard to just meet people where they are.

Maybe, just maybe, people aren't that bad. Sure...there are those who would see an easy way out. But no matter how you present it, they're going to find the easy way out. No. I think there are more people that would respond to a God that loves his people to the point of giving them another chance, even if it took seeing the whole picture to get it. You know, it means very little to me when my son does the right thing b/c he's afraid of getting into trouble. It keeps the consequences from happening which is good but it shows no effort in his heart. But when he does the right thing because he WANTS that means the world to me. And if I'm made in God's image, wouldn't that be at least a basic of God's immense love and desires for his children? I believe that actually acknowledging God's love to be that big might just be what people are longing to hear and want to respond to it without the threat of punishment.

I'd have to agree with Bell. Love does win.

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