Rob Bell is my kind of evangelical. His 2011 book Love Wins has been controversial among conservative Christians. This gifted pastor and teacher has been accused of subverting Christian orthodoxy, of promoting a faith that's too easy and inclusive, a theology that's long on love and mercy, but far too short on hellfire and brimstone.
Of course, I thoroughly enjoyed the book! Please watch the Rob Bell video and read about the book via this link to USA Today, and here's a favorite passage:
Telling a story about a God who inflicts unrelenting punishment on people because they didn’t do or say or believe the correct things in a brief window of time called life isn’t a very good story.
In contrast, everybody enjoying God’s good world together with no disgrace or shame, justice being served, and all the wrongs being made right is a better story. It is bigger, more loving, more expansive, more extraordinary, beautiful and inspiring than any other story about the ultimate course history takes.
Whatever the objections a person might have to this story…one has to admit that it is fitting, proper and Christian to long for it.
That gives us something to think about…something to pray about:
The heavens have no fist.
Great and gracious Lord, I treasure that line of Mary Oliver's poetry. It's my prayer for everyone raised on or depending upon a wrathful deity.
Still - as usual - I'm conflicted and confused. At times I do cheer for the fist. Pounding on injustice. With a death grip on evil.
I'm thinking (and praying) that somehow, beyond my understanding, the sin is separated from the sinner. That the fist obliterates the damage done by evil thoughts, words and deeds.
It's the sin that’s thrown into Revelation's fiery lake of burning sulfur. While humanity is cleansed, reconciled and restored.
I'm convinced, Lord Christ, that you extend a loving hand. Behold, how the fist opens with invitation.* Amen.
* - The Fist from THIRST, Poems by Mary Oliver