Some of my friends may be convinced I'm going to hell for saying this. But as I see the new flurry over Rob Bell, a controversial pastor who has now endorsed gay marriage, I find myself in a weird place. It bothers me less that Rob Bell has come out in favor of gay marriage than do people's responses to it. I am appalled at the mean, hateful posts people are putting out there because of his opinion. Okay, I get it. He's a popular teacher who's written a lot of books. Our church used to watch a lot of his videos. Then he started saying things people thought were controversial, and now people treat him like he's a tool of the devil.
I should confess that I haven't read his books. I have a couple I've been meaning to read, but that's the story of half the books I own. I've watched some of his Nooma videos. I've read articles about him and I've heard people ripping him to shreds over his opinions. Many of those people haven't read his books either.
Why do we feel like we're experts on the spirituality of a man we don't know?
More importantly, why do we feel it's our right to lash out in angry judgment because we don't agree with what he's said? Why are our responses full of hate?
I think I would respect the people who disagree with Rob Bell more if they said, "Whoa. Rob, I love you man, but I think you're wrong on this one, and here's why." Why don't we do that- to Rob- and to anyone else who challenges our tightly held theological beliefs?
Regardless of whether or not his position is right, Rob is a child of God whose sins Jesus died for just as much as anyone else's. Some people may be in shock over this, but Jesus died for Republicans and Democrats alike. He even died for those who don't affiliate themselves with a political party. He died for people we don't agree with. He died for people we don't like. He died for the people who are mean to us.
I even believe that Jesus had the audacity to die for Rob Bell. He loves Rob. He loves Rob when he's wrong. He loves Rob when he's right. Someday, when Jesus and Rob sit face to face, they're probably going to talk about those things. As much as I want to say I know how that conversation will go, I don't. None of us do.
But here's the conversation I will be a part of, and how I imagine it going:
Him: "Danica, you messed up on a lot of things."
Me: "Yes, Lord, I know."
Him: "When I said X, did you really think I meant Y?"
Me: "Uh... sorry?"
Him: "I forgive you."
Him: "Now let's talk about what you did right."
Him: "Thanks for loving the least of my children."
Me: "Uh... you're welcome? Who were they?"
The trouble is, I don't know who "they" are. I have a really hard time loving my enemies. I have a hard time thinking charitably toward people I consider crackheads (the bad kind, of course). I am not always nice to people I should be nice to. I call people bad names in traffic. I yell at my kids. I snap at people when I'm tired or stressed or irritated. I say mean things mostly without intending to, but sometimes I'm just being mean. So I know I don't always do it right. I probably mess up more than I succeed.
That said, I try really hard not to publicly tear someone down. As a Christian, it's not my job to post a million blogs about the people I think are going to hell. Nor is it my job to let the world know who I think is sinning. There's enough sin in my own life, thanks. If you love the sinner but hate the sin, I don't think it means attacking that person- verbally, Tweetally, or otherwise.
If you posted something bad about Rob Bell, please know this isn't personally directed at you. I saw at least 50+ posts that made my heart hurt. I know you're trying to spread the truth the best you can. But I implore you, please take a moment to ask God to share his love for Rob with you. Maybe you aren't posting mean things about Rob. Maybe your hot button is one of the other many controversial issues floating out there. Will you think about how your words can reflect love instead of hate?
Rob Bell is not my enemy. People who attack Rob Bell are not my enemy. My enemy is hate. And as much as it makes my heart hurt to see the hate floating around cyberspace, I'm trying to do my very best to respond in love.
Will you join me?