Two things are driving my thoughts today. First, there is a post going around on Facebook something like this:
I believe in Jesus Christ and have accepted Him as my personal Savior. One facebooker has challenged all believers to put this on their wall… In the Bible it says, if you deny Me in front of your peers, I will deny you in front of My Father at the Gates of Heaven. This is simple… If you love God and you are not afraid to show it repost this… Just copy and paste… No shame here
There are several things wrong with this, but I will only highlight what should be obvious: God isn’t going to refuse to allow anyone into His Heaven based on whether we have copied and pasted some text into our status updates. Not only that, the Bible verse in question actually states that you have to actively reject Christ in front of other people. I doubt that a failure to repost constitutes active denial.
Hold onto that thought for a few moments.
The second thing is that Rob Bell’s new book, Love Wins, is now on sale. Now, I have not read the book yet, so this is not a post reviewing it, discussing Rob Bell’s ideas, or taking a side. I plan to actually read what he has written before I make any kind of statement about the book. Sadly, that does not seem to have stopped nearly everyone from having an opinion already. In case you missed some of the controversy, you can start here. You can also check out Bell’s video promoting the book here. What bothers me is the complete unwillingness on the part of some Christians to read for themselves and consider Bell’s words. Some people appear to be taking perverse pleasure in condemning Bell for his apparent universalism and for “leading the flock astray.”
Which brings me back to my first point. The same thing that drives people to lash out at someone like Rob Bell is behind whatever motivates people to post implicit threats of Hell in their Facebook statuses. So that leads me to ask this question: What are we so afraid of?
What are we afraid would happen if we let go of Hell? Do we fear that the “wrong” sort of people might be found in Heaven? Or are we really just afraid that any form of universalism negates our own faith? That it wouldn’t matter at all if we believed, or stopped believing, or never believed at all? Are we afraid that it means that Jesus didn’t really die for our sins? Similarly, what do we gain from a belief that only certain people (namely, ourselves) can enter into God’s presence? What do we gain by the assumption that the vast majority of humanity, past, present and future, must spend eternity in conscious torment?
Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not trying to answer those questions here, although I do address the issue of Hell in another post. I merely think that we have to ask them of ourselves, on both sides of the equation. We don’t have to have all the answers, because how, not what, we think about the big questions will motivate our behavior.
In the meantime, perhaps we can refrain from placing labels on people we don’t know personally or whose works we haven’t read. Or at least stop reposting status updates that don’t reflect the real love of Christ.