I read Love Wins by Rob Bell. Actually, I listened to Rob read it to me. It was a book on CD from the library. Prior to reading the book, I heard a lot of chatter about it among “churchy” circles, and I had read Bell’s interview in Time magazine. Those two things combined to create great anticipation for what I was about to read. I was disappointed.
I repeatedly heard from friends, preachers, and forwarded e-mails (e-gossip) that Bell said there was no hell and that everyone goes to heaven. So I expected to find clear, repeated statements from Bell to that effect. Not so. What I found instead were some questions that couldn’t be easily answered. They made me think, and that thinking brought some ideas that didn’t fit my current beliefs. Sometimes I held steady in my beliefs, and sometimes I adjusted my mindset. So, rather than throw out everything in the book, I decided to let it be a tool for God to change me. Let me share a couple mindset adjustments resulting from reading Bell’s book.
Being Good – The parable of the prodigal son is full of symbolism. One of those symbols is the Father’s interest in reconciliation with his wayward children. He looks for them, longing for them to come home. He has no demands except a humble, freewill return to him. And when the wayward child comes home, Father throws a party. But this parable also has a child who has remained consistently faithful to Father. He has worked hard at being a “good” son, but Father has never thrown him a party. In his anger, the “good” son refuses to join in the Father’s joy for the return of the wayward child. This book helped me realize that I had an attitude similar to the “good” son.
I liked movies where the bad guys lost, not when they changed their ways. I wanted to see the guy who cut me off in traffic get a ticket rather than become a better driver. I chose to complain about how I’d been wronged rather than pray for the offender. I, the “good” son, believed mercy and forgiveness should bow to my idea of justice. My priority was not the redemption of “those people”, but that all my good efforts and sacrifices would earn me VIP entrance into God’s “party”. Admitting “those people” into the party was not fair. What I failed to understand is that just being with Father can be a “party”, and all that he has is mine. Welcoming wayward siblings home does not need to diminish my joy. In fact, if I let it, my joy will increase.
Becoming Holy –I had anchored on getting to heaven, and it was hindering me from getting where God wanted me to be. Getting me into the Kingdom of Heaven is not God’s goal. He wants the Kingdom of God to get into me. Right now I’m incompatible with God’s Kingdom. My selfishness, complaining, judging, and an armload of other things can’t be admitted into Heaven. They just won’t fit. If all those things were in heaven, it wouldn’t be heaven. I grew up believing that all those sins would be instantly cleansed forever, and I’d walk into Heaven perfected. But some of Bell’s questions made me wonder why I’m waiting to shed those sins. God doesn’t want me to wait to be holy – an intimate love for God that eclipses all other interests. I can’t sit around waiting for heaven; there’s work to be done!
I really benefited from reading this book. If you read it, give yourself permission to sift the wheat from the chaff. Then plant the wheat.