sorry, still not going to use capital letters – unless in reference to God. that would just be strange.
surely by this time, you have heard the furor about a book by rob bell called “love wins”, in which he outlines his belief in a type of universal salvation – not unheralded, but not a very widespread Christian belief, especially for such a popular pastor. i have my own opinion on the matter, and as usual, it is painfully centrist – i think we need to take “hell” very, very seriously, but God’s mercy as well. and somewhere in between those two realities, between hell and mercy, lies the truth. i can’t say with absolute certainty that i know what that truth is, so i will commit myself to the seriousness and reality of both – can we do anything more than that, as humans who see so little, and understand even less?
i know – i’m a slippery one, aren’t i?
but i didn’t dust off the old blog to give my ridiculous opinion on rob bell…although i just did. i came to waste time while i founder on my sermon for sunday. and to write on a similar, but somewhat tangential subject. when i hear that book title, “love wins” (which is some kind of motto of rob bell’s church as well), i can’t help but think that it is derived from 1 peter 4:8, which reads:
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
the context of this passage about love’s victory over sin is not related so much to eternal salvation as it is to the relationships within the Body of Christ, the church. if stated in its appropriate context but in more rob bell type of parlance, it’s as if peter is saying:
“Love your brothers and sisters in the church, because that love will win.”
to be honest, i’m not sure that God’s love will overcome the hell that humans choose for themselves every day. i think it possible, but rather doubt it. the more important question to ask is whether love will win between those within in Christ’s Body, because in that context, love is clearly supposed to win…and it is clearly does not.
i have a hard time loving people in the church, and they have a hard time loving me. i have friends who support women’s ordination who equate the other position to a modern day support for slavery. i also have friends who reject women’s ordination and view the opposite position with equal disdain. same goes with gay marriage. same with interpretations of salvation. and urban and suburban church. and the gift of tongues. and each of those conflicts, love between the members of Christ’s Body is definitely not carrying the day.
there is a need for grace in how believers with differing opinions talk to and about one another. in the debate over the mystery over salvation, it would be nice to hear leaders on both sides affirming one another, and admitting the difficulty of knowing for sure what are intrinsically difficult things to know for sure. in the church’s approach to gay people, how wonderful it would be for those in support of gay marriage to acknowledge that those in support of the opposite position do not do so out of bigotry or simple traditionalism, but a desire to be faithful to Scripture. how wonderful it would be for those who accept only traditional marriage to acknowledge the same! and in the pitched battles within the local church, there should be some standing rule that no matter how difficult the issue, how drastic the consequence, that the eternal relationship between those who call Jesus Lord and Savior be affirmed and remain protected:
“no matter how much we disagree, or where we end up…you will always be my brother and sister in Christ.”
i’m not saying that we all need to agree on every issue, because we won’t. neither am i saying that we should all be best friends, or force ourselves to persist in contexts and mentalities that chafe us terribly. i am not saying that no one is wrong, because i believe that some people are – specifically, anyone but me. frankly, in most of the issues that i raised above, i don’t think there is a middle ground where everyone can be happy. most likely, many churches and denominations will split upon these issues, as they have, as they always will. and i will one day be forced out of my centrist hidey-hole to make my choice as well, and i will be saddened in that process, i’m sure. it’s coming soon, very soon.
but when that happens, i’m hoping that we can affirm the eternal bond that all those who follow Christ with their whole lives share. here’s to hoping that love actually wins in the whole “love wins” debate.