Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It Is Finished. Love Won.

A good friend of mine encouraged me to read Love Wins.  I had never heard of it, nor had I heard of the author -- Rob Bell.  Little did I know that when I picked up that book and started reading that I would be picking up a live hand grenade.  So what do I do after it blew up in my face?  I pick up another hand grenade, pull the pin and begin this blog entry.

Love Wins is a great book.  I honestly don't know how much of it I actually agree with, but that does not diminish the power of the ideas which are expressed therein.  This book made a dramatic impression on me, but of paramount significance were these two ideas:
  1. When Jesus said "It is finished!", He did it.  He conquered sin and death.  He conquered all sin and all death as He was the perfect sacrifice perfectly satisfying the perfect wrath of God (Romans 5:18); and
  2. There is no fear in love (I John 4:18).
"It is finished!"

What a mind-blowing idea that Jesus' death completely satisfied the righteous wrath of a holy God.  Jesus took all of the punishment.  God has been forever appeased.  Can this be true?  There is something very compelling about this possibility despite many arguing that such an idea does not stand up to the words of scripture.  This could be the unifying theory which brings together the best of Calvinistic, Arminian and Covenant thinking.

For me, this makes Jesus more beautiful.  It makes his death more amazing.  It makes his resurrection more victorious.  It makes the good news...GREAT!  Jesus did it all.  It is finished.  He really is the way, the truth, the life!  He did it.

Could this be the truth that sets us free to act out of love and not out of obligation or a sense of duty?  The pressure we put on ourselves to do the right thing...that was finished.  The guilt we feel for messing up...that was finished.  The fear that God is upset with us for not measuring up...that was finished.  There is NO REASON to live with those hang-ups...NONE!  They are finished!  Do you believe this?  Can you believe this?  Are you afraid to believe this?  Stop it!  It is finished.  There is no fear in love.

"There is no fear in love."

Put on your ruby slippers and tap your heels together and say this over and over until you actually believe it and understand all of its ramifications.

There is no fear in love.
There is no fear in love.
There is no fear in love.

Paul said it this way: "There is no condemnation..."  Why do we religious-types fall into fear-based, condemnation-based thinking so easily?  Judging from the apostles' letters, this was a problem in the early church as well.  Perfect love is a difficult thing to grasp, but that's exactly what we get from Jesus.  We say we believe it, but our continual striving and self-torment suggest otherwise.

We love to accuse others and even ourselves, yet the Bible has nothing good to say about accusers.  The Bible actually says that when Jesus said "It is finished," he crushed the head of the accuser.  Accusations bring death.  Those things are finished.

We learned in the old way to fear a holy God.  Enter Jesus, the very love of God, providing a new and living way to be holy, yet without fear.  There is no reason to condemn, judge, accuse ourselves or anyone else.  When we are freed of fear, we are free to love and act out of that love.  I would argue that those who operate out of love experience a level of joy and peace that seems unattainable for those who operate out of fear, duty or obligation.

This is the effect Bell's book had on me.  The doctrinal questions that are sure to arise with some of these ideas don't trouble me.  I realize that they might trouble others and I can respect that.  For me, I believe that I  need to embrace a fear-free, condemnation-free posture before God.  If you feel that you wrestle with fear and have trouble believing that you are a beloved child of God, I recommend that you read Love Wins.  Now don't forget, you might be picking up a hand grenade.  But don't be afraid; there is no fear in love.

Bibliography: Love Wins


  1. Oh man, I wish I'd read this book so I could better participate in this one. I admire you for writing about it. You've really summed up how I feel about it in theory. I definitely feel more and more compelled to think and act out of love and good news rather than condemnation.

    When I first heard that Rob Bell was suggesting there was no hell, I wasn't thrown the way most Christians were. My selfish thought was much more selfish than "if we don't warn them, then they'll go there". It was more like, "Bummer. If there's no hell, then what am I living this way for?"

    Happily, I've thought about that a LOT since then and realized I actually live exactly how I want. Having been redeemed, as I believe I have, I WANT my marriage to work, which rules out adultery and things that would hinder that. I want to raise children that love their spouses and are a gift to society, which rules out being too lazy to discipline or disappearing from their lives for some sort of gain of my own. And so it goes. I've really worried in the past that I remained Christian mostly out of the fear of hell. I like the idea of removing that factor and relying solely on the good news to make believers and to stay one.

    Hell or not, it doesn't take long in life to realize you can't be perfect on your own. It really is good news to know that someone who can has finished it.

  2. Serenity, great thoughts. "Bummer. If there's no hell, then what am I living this way for?"

    Isn't that the question we all ask? You correctly point out that this IS the life and we can make our own hell right here and now by making those mistakes which for one reason or another seem tempting at times.

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Columbia library has 5 copies, all checked out. I placed a hold on it.

  4. Hugh, excellent. I'll be interested to hear what you think of it.

  5. Finished it last night. Pondering.
    "A gospel that repeatedly, narrowly affirms and bolsters the 'in-ness' of one group at the expense of the 'out-ness' of another group will not be the true story that includes 'all things and people in heaven and on earth'."
    This, of course, pisses off the "we're better than (X) because we (Y)" crowd.
    Does God have a supernatural adversary in Rob Bell's universe?

  6. Hugh, does Bell believe in the devil? I have no idea. There is certainly no way to tell from reading that book. I'm curious what your overall impression was with the book. More good than bad or the other way around?