Saturday, March 19, 2011

March Madness

Basketball fans are busy with brackets - cheering and jeering the Sweet Sixteen.
Christians are busy with theology - defending and defying Rob Bell's salvation.
A family is overwhelmed with life - mourning their young daughter's tragic death and waiting at their older daughter's hospital bed.

All of a sudden, arguing over brackets and beliefs seems quite pointless. In the grand scheme of things, they always have been, currently are, and always will be pointless.

Duke versus Michigan doesn't matter.
Calvinism versus If-you're-not-like-me-you-are-wrong-ism is a waste of time.

I've been reading Rob Bell's latest book, which we all know has come under fire. However, most Christians don't stop at disagreeing with his ideas, they go on to personal attacks and judgment...seems a bit ridiculous.  Had friends and family not asked me to give my opinion on Love Wins, I wouldn't have taken the time since there are more important matters at hand...which I will discuss momentarily.

Since I've actually read the thing, I can say with confidence that he's not the devil. Bell never says There is no heaven or There is no hell. On the contrary, he states that "Jesus consistently confirmed heaven as a real place..." (pg. 42), and that hell "describes[s] the very real consequences we experience when we reject...God" (pg. 93). Additionally, he provides indepth discussion on the Hebrew word Sheol, mentioned in Psalm 18. Christ's explanations of hell would have been based heavily on Sheol, considering he was a rock star in Hebrew school.

Do I think Mr. Bell hung the moon? No. Do I enjoy reading his books? Yes. I agree with Eugene Peterson in that he doesn't "[compromise] an inch of evangelical conviction." Do I consider myself his "student"? Nah. Will I read the next four books he has in the works? You betcha!

What he actually does say is pretty spot-on: "All that matters is how you respond to Jesus" (pg. 7). In regards to the age to come, the most important thing is our response to Christ's grace here and now. What matters most is the way we love others based on our acceptance of Grace - not how vehemently we agree or disagree with someone's theology.

Another statement Bell never made (but is being accused of) is that people don't have to choose God prior to death. The last few chapters of Revelation tell us "the gates of that city in that new world will 'never shut'" from which Bell makes this connection: "If the gates are never shut, then people are free to come and go" (pg. 114-15). His point is not to say we have a chance to call a post-mortem I changed my mind timeout regardless of decisions made in life; he merely states it could be a possibility. Considering we don't know anyone who's ever returned from hell for a testimony to confirm or deny this, posing the question is not heresy.
Those are questions, or more accurately, those are tensions we are free to leave fully intact. We don't need to resolve them or answer them because we can't, and so we simply respect them, creating space for the freedom that love requires (pg. 115).
The thing I most agree with in Love Wins is this statement: "Often the people most concerned about others going to hell when they die seem less concerned with the hells on earth right now, while the people most concerned with the hells on earth right now seem the least concerned about hell after death." To that, I say touche! When people limit themselves to farsighted vision, they may miss what's right in front of them: human suffering.

While there are countless other points I could go on to make, I'll stop here. I feel as though I've addressed the hot-button issues trending on Twitter and Facebook.

Human suffering causes all else to take a back seat. While we fast-forward through DVR'd games and discuss theology, there is a father, a mother, and a brother experiencing a pain most of us can't begin to imagine. This past August, their youngest daughter died from complications incurred in a car accident. After a week of sitting by her hospital bed, holding her hand, stroking her hair, and crying out to God for a miracle, they had to plan this sweet girl's funeral. Through their unbearable pain, I watched them praise God for blessing them with her life. Through tears, they were able to laugh at the memories and testify to God's goodness, mercy, and love.

This week, their older daughter was in a skiing accident. She is currently in ICU. An all-too-familiar scene is playing out for this family... Again, this mother is holding the hand of an unresponsive daughter. Again, she is placing her daughter in God's hands, trusting that He will bring healing and hope. They are waiting for her to wake up so the doctors can begin to assess the amount of brain damage. Once this occurs, she will be moved to brain trauma rehab. The family lives in Texas, but she is in a Colorado hospital near where the accident happened. Travel expenses add to medical bills, piled on top of traumatic fear and worrying. My heart is broken for this family.

Brackets and beliefs? No thank you.

Please stand in the gap for the Williams family. Pray for healing; pray for miracles. Ask God to give them strength, to give the doctors wisdom and knowledge to provide the best possible treatment. Pray for her mother, father, and brother. Ask God to comfort them and give them rest. Pray as though she were your daughter, sister, cousin, or friend because as a child of God, she absolutely is your sister.

"The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." Galations 5:6

In the end, regardless of theological standpoints, love does win.

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