for those of you living under rocks, rob bell has really turned the evangelical world upside down this past week. he has sent many evangelical leaders into an outrage, creating a social network tsunami of extensive blogs (don’t believe me: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/02/26/rob-bell-universalist/, http://www.dennyburk.com/rob-bell-outs-himself/, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/02/28/bell-brouhaha/, to name a few) and tweets (the one most noted: “farewell, rob bell,” via @johnpiper). the uproar is of course due to the recently released promo of his newest book, love wins, and to show the seriousness of his words in this short 2:58 video, the gospel coalition recently released this statement:
“Rob Bell’s forthcoming book Love Wins has already raised perennial questions about universalism, exclusivism, the love of God, and heaven and hell. So what does the Bible say about these weighty matters? What did Jesus himself say? And what’s the best way to relate this teaching to a skeptical culture? Don Carson and others will address these questions in a special session just added to The Gospel Coalition’s national conference in Chicago, April 12 to 14. A panel that follows Carson’s address will field questions from the audience.”
special session added to a national conference just a month away to deal with a book promo? this is huge.
i am not one more voice in the crowd wanting to share my opinions and jump on the “rob bell is a universalist” bandwagon (even if i believe it is what it sounds like he is promoting). i just have one thing that i would like to share regarding it, for those who fall on either side of the war zone.
there are those who claim he is a heretic, accusing him of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing, masquerading as an angel of light, deceiving many of the tens of thousands of people who listen to, follow, and adore pastor bell, who leads mars hill bible church in grandville, michigan (http://marshill.org/), by teaching them false truths regarding hell, salvation, and the character of God.
then of course there are those who act as pastor bell’s defense attorney, saying that his messages of hope and his theology are just what this world needs. read 10 comments from any of the above blogs, and you will get a fairly accurate portrayal of each group, complete with scriptures, emotions, harsh words, pride, and hostility. you will be sick to your stomach, and satan will have butterflies in his. when we focus on ourselves or one another instead of Jesus Christ in any situation, satan wins.
finally, my actual point. in the gospel of john, chapter 13, Jesus does something astonishing, that has a practical implication we can apply to the rob bell “brouhaha,” as justin taylor fittingly calls it.
“during supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of judas iscariot, simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist. then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him… for He knew who was to betray Him…” John 13:2-5, 11
scripture is clear that judas at this point in time had already betrayed His Lord, His Savior, His friend. judas was a false follower of Christ. he followed Him faithfully for three years. he was trusted by the other disciples enough that they put him in charge of the money. from the outside, he seemed like just another disciple of Jesus. on the inside however, which is what God sees, it was revealed that he wasn’t out to help Jesus, but to hurt Him. and in doing so, he hurt the disciples, and eventually, himself (Matthew 27:3-5, Acts 1:18).
the one who Jesus knew had already betrayed him in his heart internally and who was about to betray him externally with a kiss, deserved a blog attacking him. he deserved to be a twitter trend with the hashtag #thisguyissuchajerk. he deserved to be called out, judged, and condemned for his sin. but instead we see that Jesus did the unthinkable. Jesus washed the feet of judas iscariot.
the Creator of the universe stooped in humility to serve the one whom played a major role in his crucifixion. and this should be our attitude to guys like rob bell. i am not equating judas with rob bell. i am not saying satan has entered into rob bell like judas, or that he in some way was responsible for the crucifixion of Christ. but in some sense, he was. his sin nailed the hands of Jesus to the cross. and actually in some very real sense, so did mine. i nailed his feet. we both are wrong, in different ways at different times regarding different things. only Jesus Christ is good and right… always.
is this to say that no calling out of professing Christians or pastors is required? by no means. every non-Christian’s favorite words to quote (quoting a book they do not submit to?) from scripture is of course “judge not, lest you be judged.” (of course, i’m pretty sure that is the only time the word lest is used in a sentence here in america as well). as pastors and undershepherds of the flock of God, His bride, we need to protect the sheep from wolves. paul called out heretics, false teachers, and those who caused problems by name in his epistles, and if we love our people and God’s church we will humbly and graciously do the same.
at the same time though, in the midst of this rob bell controversy, maybe we need more Christians doing what Jesus did for judas…serving our brother. praying for rob. praying for his church. praying for his people. praying that the Holy Spirit would come and convict where conviction is necessary and that the true gospel of Jesus Christ, the glorious news of an all-powerful, all-holy God condescending to assume the wrath that justly belongs to suffering sinners, would transform not only mars hill into a community of hell-believers and heaven-seekers, but into a group of people on fire for the glory of God realizing that heaven and hell are not merely destinations for humans at the end of time, but realities that begin here on earth: either delighting in the presence of God, or hating the presence of God.
“for this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
anything else, will be hell.
may we be faithful in washing the proverbial feet of our brother rob bell.