Friday, March 18, 2011

The Most Threatening Virtue of All

Lately, I've noticed that people are threatened by the strangest thing. We're threatened by love.

Now, I know what you might be thinking. "Collin, you must be paranoid if love is so threatening to you."

My response: I bet if you take a closer look, you might just be threatened by love as well.

Look around and you'll notice how threatening love really is:

-When you look at the gospels, the most unloving people aren't the Romans or the pagans. The Romans kill Jesus and they come off appearing even more loving than the Pharisees and religious people of Jesus' day. The religious elites seemed to be threatened by a Jesus who loves people at all the wrong times (on the Sabbath, at the well, on the cross, etc.).

-Church leaders know the truth about Christians perhaps more than any other group of people. But I must admit, love isn't the first characteristic I would use to describe church members. Unfortunately, it doesn't even make the top 10 characteristics I would use to describe church members.

-Three years ago, I had a conversation with a mentor who forever challenged the way I thought about our task as Christians. It all had to do with how threatening it can be to find love as our primary duty as Christians (and I still remember that conversation vividly).

-Rob Bell writes a book called Love Wins and the Twitter world and blogosphere go nuts. And it's not because so many non-Christians commented on Bell's book. Bell's name lit up the internet because Christians were bickering with one another over how literal hell really is. The conversation wasn't about love. The conversation became about whether Bell was a heretic or not. And love didn't win.

And the world looks on wondering what in the world Christianity is really about. Or perhaps they've stopped wondering because we've confirmed their suspicions all too often.

Over the next few weeks, I want to develop these four experiences and express why love seems to be so threatening to Christians.

So, come back for my thoughts and for conversation. My hope is that love might not just be the topic of these blogs to come. Perhaps it might even characterize our conversation.

Perhaps this time, Love might win.



Anonymous said...

John 13.35

Lauren said...

Great thoughts, friend! Bell's book is on its way to live in my library. Can't wait to get my hands on it. You are such a rich voice of Truth, Collin. Love and blessings to you and yours.

Clint Packer said...

Hey Collin, I found your blog from Facebook. Just a quick comment on this post. Rob Bell's book title should be "Truth Wins." I would say truth is the most threatening virtue of all. There are many christians and nonchristians that have love, but unfortunately don't have truth. Rob Bell falls short when it comes to truth in my opinion. "Love Wins" is an all inclusive title that sells books. Truth may not have what it takes to make it on the best seller list. But that's the world we live in. Truth can divide us from the rest of the world, but God says to be separate from the world. I see too much truth being compromised for unity in Christianity today. That is a slippery slope. Well I just thought I'd join the conversation. Talk to you soon.


Collin Packer said...

Thanks for joining in Clint. I'll look forward to continuing the conversation in the weeks to come.

Tim Byrne said...

To continue the conversation…

I completely agree with the notion about people being threatened by love. However, aside from our God-given call to love Him and love others, I believe that Christians (often times more than non-Christians) are threatened even more by God’s love for us and all of its implications. Unconditional love is irrational and radical. It doesn’t make sense. And that’s what makes it so scary.

You reference Rob Bell’s new book and all of the controversy it has recently stirred within the evangelical Christian world. I believe that all of the negative feedback it has received is all too telling of what you point out: that many are truly threatened and terrified of love.

I am in the middle of reading Bell’s book right now and although I don’t think it’s his purpose to do so, he could give a better Scriptural defense of what he is suggesting. But more importantly, Bell is asking questions that have very serious implications about what we believe God’s character to be. Perhaps it is our sense of entitlement as Christians, our understanding of God’s justice, exclusivity, or a combination of all of these things, but the evangelical world is recoiling in horror at the thought that God might love His creation so much that He will one day, through Christ’s atoning sacrifice that continually cleanses, reconcile all people to Himself. And to me, this is sad.

I believe in a God who cannot and will not be in the presence of sin caused by our wrongdoing. I believe in an angry and wrathful God who demands justice for this wrongdoing. However, I believe in a God who loves His people and truly wants all to come to Him. I believe in a God who sent His son on behalf of the sinful world so that justice and atonement could be satisfied. I believe in a God who is powerful enough to bring all of this about.

Although what Bell is suggesting is nothing entirely new to consider and has been around since the beginnings of church history, these questions still need to be seriously considered. We must not let traditional interpretation of God limit how we view what He is capable of too much.

We will never understand the extent of God’s love for His creation. However, at the end of the day we need to ask ourselves what His love is capable of... and after careful discernment, study, prayer, and work of the Holy Spirit determine whether that terrifies us or frees us to love in kind. In the end God’s love wins.