Love Wins – Last Two Chapters

I’m finishing up the review today so that my husband can take the book back to the library. I finished reading the book over the long weekend but we were very busy as a family and I didn’t have time to sit down and write much.

Overall, I enjoyed the book and wasn’t sure what all the controversy is about. The few people I specifically talked to about the book who had read it also couldn’t tell what the controversy was all about. My best guess is that those with the biggest problem with Bell’s book haven’t taken the time to read it. Isn’t that usually the case in Churchianity, though.

In the second to the last chapter, <em>The Good News Is Better Than That</em>, Bell takes a look at the parable of the Prodigal Son. I rather like what he does with the parable–I think it’s supportable and consistent with the bigger picture being conveyed in the Parable. He basically suggests that both of the sons’ problem is rooted in their story of their life being inconsistent with their father’s story of their life.

The youngest son’s story, at the time of his return, is that he isn’t worthy of being a son anymore. He’s too “bad”; he hasn’t lived “right”; the best he hopes for from the father is to be hired back as a slave–he knows his father treats his slaves better than he was being treated in the world. But the father says to him that the real story of his life is that he is the son and what he is worthy of is a party with the finest.

The oldest son’s story, when he returns from the field and finds the party being thrown for the younger son, is that he has been there the whole time, slaving away, and the father hasn’t acknowledged his good work and how unfair is that? Not even a goat for him to throw a party with his friends–nothing special has been rewarded him for doing what he was supposed to do. But the father informs him that while he has been there all the time everything the father had was available to him.

Ultimately, when our story about ourselves is wrong we can’t appreciate the awesomeness of someone else’s story. So many people need there to be a hell because they can go yet another day suffering and struggling to do what is expected of them as a Christian with the assurance that at least all those people out there doing what they aren’t allowed to do are going to get theirs someday. But God doesn’t tell that story in His Word.

Lots of people have their hope tied up in a Rapture where they get to escape all the suffering of the Great Tribulation because they’ve done what they needed to get out of that–and that Fire Insurance is going to pay off for that high price they’ve believed it to cost. All those people who wouldn’t listen to them about Jesus are going to know who had it right in the end! But God doesn’t tell that story in His Word.

If it turns out after we die that we find there is a hell something like traditional Christianity adopted from the Greek and Roman mythologies then isn’t the response that reveals a love for your neighbor that is like your love for yourself to be broken-hearted and tormented to learn that anyone has gone there? If there is going to be a Great Tribulation the likes of what is described in Left Behind theology then isn’t the response that reveals a love for your neighbor that is like your love for yourself to be a desire to STAY and help them through it since you have the hope of Jesus and they don’t?

And maybe, just maybe, no one will need that kind of “reward” for themselves or “come uppance” for their neighbor if they really understood the message that God has written in His Word about them. Because those of us who have been in the Father’s House all along are not slaves–we’re His Children. And those of us who have gone out into the world thinking we could do things better if we followed our own ideas aren’t so damaged and broken that the best we can hope for is a position as a servant in the Father’s house–we’re His Children. And maybe, just maybe, THAT is the kind of love and the message of hope that would cause people to rush in droves to the Father. I know it has transformed my life.

Ultimately I don’t hear Bell saying that there isn’t a hell, or a heaven, or judgement–what I hear is Bell challenging why so many in the Church NEED there to be these things. Most of what people believe about these things comes from a handful of verses that may or may not be talking about what they are constructing them to be about–like a lot of doctrinally “sure” things people are convinced of. But if God wanted us to really understand the afterlife–and wanted that to be the reason we live however we live in this life, I have no doubt He could have been very clear about what would be awaiting us. Yet He wasn’t. I think that is because when we know Him we can trust Him. And when we don’t know Him we often don’t care much about what happens to us. I’m all about loving my neighbor enough to share with them that they can enter heaven now–the Kingdom of God can be in their hearts NOW! And I love God and trust Him enough to trust Him with the neighbor who seems to not want anything to do with Him in this life. If there is something akin to hell in the afterlife I’m convinced that those who go there will really have to want to be there–and if God were to choose at the last minute to let everyone stay with Him, I’m okay with that. I don’t believe that scenario is given in Scripture, because I do read of not everyone wanting to be with Him–but I do believe that the opportunity for everyone to be with Him has been extended. And I think a lot more people are going to be there than some people seem to think.

And I think when we see what the real plan is for eternity we’re going to be so amazed–and whatever we have thought about it will seem so silly to us. Every time we humans think we have the mind of God I figure that will be the case.

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