Among Christian circles there has been much debate over a book called “Love Wins” by Rob Bell. I’m not going to get into the book here but examine the controversy surrounding the book.
Adrian Warnock, a British blogger and critic of the book wrote, "My concern is that without the bad news the good news is not really good!" My initial thought was, "This guy must have never been lost." The good news, even without hell, is still great news for the lost. It was for me, and I don't remember the people sharing the good news with me mentioning hell. I was mired in sin, lost in the pursuit of success, and drowning in the pleasures of this world. From this wasted and fruitless life, Jesus freed me, freed me to a life of loving God and loving my neighbors. That might seem somewhat superficial and meaningless, but, at its core, it changes everything. It brings hope into hopeless situations. It brings meaning to the meaningless. It brings redemption to the irredeemable.
When Jesus walked the earth he taught, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” [Matthew 4:17 (ESV)]. Following Jesus is more than just having right doctrine. It’s about making the right choices, right now. It’s about turning from the mistakes we are making and living in the right path. That’s what repentance is. This message is urgent. Every day that we live for ourselves we continue to damage ourselves and the world around us. The great news is that Jesus’ message makes our life better now, not just in the future of eternity. Don’t confuse this with a message of health and wealth; it’s one of joy, peace, and security.
This kingdom that Jesus said was at hand is the place where God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. As Christians, we believe the kingdom is here now, but not fully here. It’s a paradox. In practice, this means that we, as followers of Jesus, attempt to bring about the perfect kingdom as much as we possibly can into the here and now while understanding that which we strive for will not be fully realized until after our deaths. Living in this paradox should make Christians live differently than those around us. The kingdom of heaven is at hand, and we want, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, God’s will to be done here on earth as it is in heaven.
This idea of bringing about God’s will here on earth rather than just pursuing our selfish interests reminds me of a story. Parade magazine told the story of self-made millionaire Eugene Lang. In 1981, Mr. Lang had been asked to speak to a class of 61 sixth-graders in East Harlem. The principal told Lang that statistics showed that three-quarters of the students he was to address would not graduate high school, let alone go to college. What could he say to inspire these students, most of whom would drop out of school? Being an older white guy, he wondered how he could get these predominantly black and Puerto Rican children even to look at him. Scrapping his notes, he decided to speak from his heart. "Stay in school," he admonished, "and I'll help pay the college tuition for every one of you." At that moment the lives of these students changed. For the first time they had hope. One student said, "I had something to look forward to, something waiting for me. It was a golden feeling." Nearly 90 percent of that class went on to graduate from high school. 60% pursued higher education. Instead of just using words to motivate, Lang used his wealth to do great things. He brought hope. He made a difference.
Back to Love Wins and Warnock's comment, "My concern is that without the bad news the good news is not really good!" I searched further on his website to see if my assumption about him not ever living without God was right. And it was. He became a Christian at the age of four and was kept on a "short leash." That doesn't discredit his faith, but he does need to realize that the good news is even good news without hell. This is something that all of us who have lived in the dark but now live in the light realize.
In the end, the good news is great news, right now. Not just in some future after our death. This needs to be part of the message we proclaim as followers of Jesus. We don’t endure a faithful life wishing that we could live like the world. We live a message of hope that redeems this world through the message and life of Jesus. We, like Mr. Lang, need to make sacrifices for others. In living for others rather than ourselves, we will see glimpses of what eternity in heaven will look like.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”[John 10:10 (ESV)].
If you want to read my review of Love Wins by Regan, you can check it out here: Freedom Wins.