Monday, July 11, 2011

Love Wins: Chapter 8 "The End Is Here"

Rob Bell recalls how as a boy he invited Jesus into his heart. He reflects on how important that moment was and is in his life. He also observes that there are many ways to deconstruct that experience and cynically discount its meaning. Bell affirms that God meets us in such experiences and we are not to discount them. We are to embrace them. Each of those moments are necessary for us to arrive where we are and become part of the invitation to trust and believe that we are loved and are being made new.

Bell warns us against the cynicism and skepticism that undermines our trust. He assures us that the love we fear that is too good to be true is actually "good enough to be true." Jesus is inviting us to be drawn into the love which "takes over every square inch of our lives." But this love requires a death, a humbling, a leaving behind of the old mind. It requires an opening up and loosening our hold in order to expand, find, hear, see, and enjoy (p. 196).

There are strong images of judgment in the Bible and Bell mentions a few of them. Bell's claim is that these are warnings that the choices we make, the paths we take, have consequences and opportunities offered once are not generally on offer again. Jesus is reminding us in the parables of judgment that our decisions are to be taken seriously. Jesus is urging us in each and every moment to live like the end is already here.

Yet Bell concludes that in the end love wins because God is love and Jesus has come and does come to bring that love to life.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Love Wins Chapter 7: The Good News is Better Than That

This chapter can be summarized briefly. Using Jesus' parable of the prodigal son as his key text, Rob Bell sets forth his conclusion about heaven and hell. Hell is our refusal to trust God's retelling of our story. The Gospel, on the other hand confronts our version of our story about ourselves with God's version of that story. That story begins with God's love for us. Living out of that story frees us to live fully - now and forever.

The elder son in the parable gets into trouble when his wayward brother returns because he has imagined himself as superior to the younger brother and thus more deserving. When the father rejoices by throwing a party for the younger son, the resentment of the older son takes hold and keeps him from celebrating. His father attempts to retell his story but the older son refuses to trust that version. He is in a kind of hell inasmuch as he is at the party without being at the party. That is hell. He refuses to join in. Bell also makes the point that the kind of resentment shown by the older brother is the same kind of attitude that many Christians take when they are quick to say that others are going to hell.

On the other hand, the younger son is in danger of believing a condemning story about himself that will exclude him from his father's house as anything but a slave. However, his father retells him his story so that he can hear a tale of "welcome home," and he can then  fully enter into the celebration.

Bell also spends time reflecting on the image of God that is depicted in this parable and how it contrasts with the punitive image of God that many put forward. The good news of the Gospel is better than that!

I found that this chapter brings together many of the themes Bell has treated earlier in the book and I appreciate the way that he brings these home to the story about the woman who hands him the piece of paper each week. Powerful stuff!