|Reflections on Christ inside|
How do you summarize Jesus's message?
If you've been keeping up with this blog, you know I’ve been reading Love Wins. So I’ve taken some notes to summarize Rob Bell’s position on Christ (his “Christology,” to use the technical term). Here are some notes along the way (not intended to be exhaustive, but certainly to representative):
First of all, Bell writes that, according to Jesus, love implies freedom. Therefore God’s invitation to us in Christ is a free invitation. But this freedom has consequences:
God extends an invitation to us, and we are free to do with it as we please. Saying yes will take us in one direction; saying no will take us in another.
One of the key sections of Love Wins is the rather lengthy reflection on the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15: 11-32), which more or less fills out his chapter, “The Good News is Better Than That.”
I read that chapter again last night and found myself quite moved—moved at the truly deep goodness of Jesus’s retelling our story. Whether we describe ourselves as undeserving God’s grace (the younger son) or too proud to bend to receive it (the older son), the Gospel is about believing God’s story more than our. When we say yes to God in Christ, we let God's story define us. Whether we self-abase or self-aggrandize, God re-narratives our life.
As Bell describes it, this is story of love, not of fear. I do love this line:
Let’s be very clear, then: we do not need to be rescued from God. God is the one who rescues us from death, sin, and destruction. God is the rescuer.
Not only do I love that line (and believe it's true), but overall I like Bell's Jesus. And that fact made me reflect: sometimes what I like is what’s true and good. But I’m not sure that what I like is always what’s best for me. I'm reminded of the Sermon on the Mount (in Matthew’s Gospel, chapters 5-7). Jesus's words there are fairly harsh. In many ways, I don't immediately press "like" when I read them. I'd prefer to keep thinking about God's rescue and meditate on that. But there's more to the story. Here I have to quote St. Clive (aka C. S. Lewis) who was accused of “caring for” Paul’s theology of grace more than Jesus’s rigor ethics.
As to "caring for" the Sermon on the Mount, if "caring for" here means "liking" or enjoying, I suppose no one "cares for" it. Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledge-hammer? I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of the man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure. This is indeed to be ‘at ease in Zion’ (Amos 6:1).
So, yes, I quibble with Rob Bell's Jesus. And I submit that he picks and chooses to find the Jesus he prefers. (Admittedly, it’s a trait that we all fall into.)
But I do not quibble with this final insight. What represents God's deepest nature ? "God is love" (1 John 4:8). So even though Bell lays out an incredible amount of reflections in Love Wins, the heart of what he believes about Christ can be found in the book’s title:
Love is what God is,Love is why Jesus came,And love is why he continues to come,Year after year to person after person.
And may you know,No more quibbles. I'll let Bell have the last word.
deep in your bones,
that love wins.