Rob Bell's book Love Wins has sparked a huge response in the church. A couple weeks ago I picked up this book and decided to delve into the conflict. This post isn't going to be a review of the book. It's not going to be a theological discourse on why Rob Bell is right or wrong. Rather it's going to be a quick note on an idea that Rob Bell brings up in the book, almost in passing, and the importance of this idea.
Christianity as seen by the secular world seems to be a people group that has some wild beliefs about the world, creation, and living with a strong emphasis on judgmental legalism. They are a pious group that are more concerned with the do's and don't's within the scripture than the actual message of the bible. They are politically very conservative, willing to ban abortion, but unfortunately have little to no concern for the poor. When in doubt, the default to the "tough love" mentality in which a person should be self made and just has to tighten down his boot straps to succeed. They look to be given answers and will stand on the answers given to them even though the answers seem to contradict each other. They are a black and white people, they don't like questions that may have more than one answer and therefore hate it when people ask questions they don't have answers to. THIS is why evangelical christianity thinks that Rob Bell is a heretic. He asks tough questions and isn't content with the old standard Sunday School answers.
From what I've read so far, Rob Bell is presenting ideas that are no less supported by scripture than other more prominently held beliefs.
A big question Bell asks in the book is, what if Christians actually lives out the two great commandments? What if Christians were actually serious about the power of love? What if people actually loved their neighbor? What would the world be like if you loved, not only your geographical neighbor, but your neighbors in mankind? What if Christians were actually concerned about the poor and needy, not because it's something nice to do, but rather because it's a mandate from God, delivered by Jesus himself? It's right there in the bible. Matthew 22:36-40. The Pharisees ask Jesus which is the greatest commandment. Jesus responds, "Love the Lord with all your heart, mind, and soul. This is the first and greatest. The second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and prophets hang on these two commandments."
Doesn't it seem a little silly that Jesus is asked for one great commandment and he gives two? Love God. First, greatest. Love your neighbor. Second. They are two different things, but aren't they actually inseparable? Is it possible to love God without loving your neighbor? I don't think it is. If you attempt to love God without a concern for your fellow man, you get a dogmatic list of dos and don't's to live by. You get religion, but no life. You get tradition, but it's dead. You die without ever knowing what love is. The simple truth is that God is love. How do we show our love to our neighbor? By going to church? By singing upbeat songs? By raising our hands during public prayer? By having a "come and join us" mentality? No. It's by going and entering in to the garbage that life gives our neighbors and saying, "I don't have all the answers, but I'm here so we can find them together."
The fact is that after the Greatest Commandments there is also the Great Commission in which the first word is "go". We were made to be relational beings. How do we live out the greatest commandments? By going out into the world and loving other people the way Jesus loved us. By being angry and injustice in the world, our country, our city, and our neighborhood. Tough love is tough, but it's not love. It's not good enough to exist under the Christian label. If we are unconcerned about injustice, how can we claim to be a people of love? How can we claim Jesus if we reject his purpose?
My challenge is to find ways, international or local, where we can confront injustice and pour love into it. Find says in which we can go and love. This is our greatest mandate. Are you willing?