About a year ago Rob Bell wrote a book titled “Love Wins.” I read it, and am still not sure why it was so radical. For the most part he treated Scripture with a great deal of respect and did an effective job of demonstrating that the Christian faith is first and foremost about love and inclusion.
I suspect that the underlying reasons for the critiques had much to do with a strange need for punishment. As Christians we are really good at saying Jesus loves everyone, but many secretly hope that the really bad people are beyond the love of God; that there are some who simply deserve hell. The idea that love could somehow persuade a bad person to repent and gain access to heaven is unpalatable to some in the church.
When Jesus was asked what the most important part of the law was, his response was simple – love God, love people, and there isn’t anything else that matters. I suspect that none of what I have said so far is new information. Why is it that we are so good at accepting the love of Jesus for ourselves, our family and close friends, but not so good at sharing that love with people we do not like?
Can you imagine how different our world would be today if after 9-11 we had chosen love instead of shock and awe? We might even have money available for healthcare, education and welfare programs. Having enemies, both personally and corporately, is expensive, stressful and dangerous.
Loving our enemies may not always be perceived as macho or tough. Jesus never called us to be macho; he did however call us to a life of service and humility. When we find the courage and strength to embrace these attributes, hell and eternal punishment become much less important. You might even say they fade into insignificance. When this happens love has a chance to win.