The following was supposed to be published in the May edition of the Philadelphia Biblical University student newspaper “The Scroll.” However, time was short, and the edition did not get published. I have posted it here as my last reflection on Rob Bell’s book Love Wins.
A favorite theologian of mine tells a story about a poster he has on his office door of two people embracing and the statement, “A Modest Proposal For Peace: Let The Christians Of The World Agree That They Will Not Kill Each Other.” Every once in awhile, someone will drop by his office and dispute the sign that Christians shouldn’t kill anyone. This theologian will chuckle and wittingly respond, “Well, we have to start somewhere.”
At one point in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is preaching and finds himself in a peculiar situation—his family thinks he is crazy and attempts to save him from himself. Someone tells him that his mother and brothers are outside and want to speak with him. Jesus’ responds,
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mk. 3:33-35 NIV; emphasis added).
Jesus, inaugurating God’s kingdom, redefines what it means to be “family.” When I follow Jesus, loyalty to my biological family takes a back seat to my familial obligation to other Christians.
Now, if you are like me, the people in my biological family are some of the most aggravating people I know. I don’t always enjoy their company. I argue with them. I may even yell at them. But, in the end, my brother is my brother; my sister, my sister. They are not my enemies. Something deeper connects us—blood.
When you decide to follow Jesus, you have a familial obligation to anyone who is also doing his or her best to follow Jesus. Paul consistently rebukes division because we are a family. Something deeper connects us—Christ.
Rob Bell’s Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived has been the source of much debate and controversy within the evangelical world. Bell’s basic argument (essentially, repackaging what others like C.S. Lewis have said) is as follows:
- (a) God through Christ loves everyone.
- (b) Because of A, he will not encroach on human freedom.
- (c) Because of A and B, if one resists God through embodying a hellish life, he or she will be allowed hell in the next. If one accepts God through embodying heavenly attributes, he or she will be allowed heaven after death.
- (d) After death, God, in his love, gives individuals chances to be redeemed.
- (e) In the end, “love wins” because God through Christ loves us so much he give us what we want—if hell, then hell; if heaven, then heaven.
I don’t know Rob Bell personally, but I have been following him for about 6 years now. Bell makes following Jesus his passion, and I respect that. I struggle with some of his views, but I take what is good, keep it, and filter out the rest.
But you know what? Rob Bell’s my brother, and, because he’s my brother, I have a familial obligation to him. If I have a familial obligation to Rob Bell, even if I disagree with him, I won’t kill him by labeling him a “false teacher” or a “heretic,” or by condemning him to hell or writing him off. Something deeper connects us.
So, let the Christians of the world agree that they will not kill Rob Bell.