Rob Bell, You Stinker….


These past few days aren’t exactly putting my former pastor Rob Bell in the running for any popularity contests amongst most evangelical Christian circles.  In fact, while meandering around the Facebook scene or any worldwide internet search for that matter, it almost appears as if he’s been thrown a cross to carry, headed up the hill of Golgotha, and the righteous leaders of the day are looking on in stoic determination and smug pleasure.   Granted, he has taken a rather liberal/light footed stance on the issue of gay marriage while also saying that our traditional Christian beliefs are often archaic in nature and not always relevant or applicable in light of the 21st century.  

He said, and I quote, “I am for marriage. I am for fidelity. I am for love, whether it’s a man and woman, a woman and a woman, a man and a man. I think the ship has sailed and I think the church needs — I think this is the world we are living in and we need to affirm people wherever they are.” 
I personally don’t take this statement as a glaring declaration of his absolute belief that homosexuals should marry; in fact, I don’t really think this statement is ultimately about that at all, and he’s chuckling as people become so wrapped up in the idea that he is for gay marriage.   I think, as it is with most statements attached to Rob Bell, there is an element of suspense and layers to unfold as he dances around what the issue really is. He is for marriage.  He is for fidelity, He is for Love, (Everything God is and encompasses is Love, so that works for most of us, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” John 3:16 ). He’s for love between men and woman and then comes these words, 
A woman and a woman, a man and a man.
Oh my – this is where the evangelical church is about to stone Rob Bell, these 9 little words, “a woman and a woman, a man and a man.” Is Rob Bell saying that women can love each other and men can love each other?  Because that is Biblical in a love sense at least.  I have many women whom I love and many men have deep, loving relationships with other men, or is he actually saying here that a woman and a woman and a man and a man can have an intimate loving relationship that may lead to marriage?   Again, I think the statement is hidden in layers, not saying specifically what Rob Bell believes because I don’t think that is the intended underlying message of his words in the first place. As we read further into this we get to the last sentence in which he says,
 I think this is the world we are living in”
Yes, I would agree, there is no denying that this is our reality in the 21stcentury. We have women in intimate marital relationships with other women, and we have men in intimate marital relationships with other men – that is the reality of our life whether we want to hide under a nice, cozy, evangelical rock and pretend like it doesn’t exist or we want to own up to the fact that this is happening here in our culture, just like abortions are happening, child slavery is happening, and people are dying all over this continent because of starvation; it’s all happening, period.  
“We need to affirm people wherever they are.” 
This is the key, the true guts of what he is saying; the heart of his message – in my opinion.  This was the heart of Christ’s entire earthly ministry.  He did not go about advocating specific lifestyles; working mothers versus stay at home mothers, blue collar workers versus white collar workers, those who drink alcohol, those who don’t, smokers versus quitters, those who are unequally yoked together with unbelievers and those who aren’t, those husband and wives who don’t fulfill their sexual duties to their spouses (ouch….) “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband” I Cor 7:3, versus those who have a rockin sex life in their marriages and those who love the same gender and those who love opposite genders. Christ, God of the Universe, did have an opinion on this stuff but these sins, these lifestyles choices, were not the focus of his ministry; nor should they be the focus of our ministry as evangelical Christians reaching out to a lost and hurting world.  
Christ did not focus on STUFF.  Christ focused his ministry on meeting people precisely where they were in whatever situation or emotional state they were in, and he loved them.  He met the Samaritan woman at the well, he met the blind man at the pool of Siloam, and he met the disabled man at the pool in Jerusalem.  His first recorded miracle at the wedding of Cana shows him meeting the people right in the middle of their need, and if we’re honest, it’s not only kind of a silly need but it’s also kind of a sinful need to most church theologies.  In other words, the party goers needed someone to make an alcohol run.  These people were having a party; a big, ol, inebriated, days and nights of drunken bliss and hangovers sort of shin dig and they ran out of wine and Christ met them in the middle of that need. He cared so much about their need that he didn’t make some cheap, $10 box of Franzia wine to meet the need, instead he made the equivalent of an  Italian vintage wine causing the master of the banquet to proclaim to the Bridegroom, “You have saved the best till now!” John 2:10. Huh……???
 I wonder if the same crucifiers of Rob Bell would have been able to handle a party like this?  Or would it have made them so uncomfortable with the obvious sinful nature of it all with the wine and the dancing and the celebrating that they would have balked on out of there rolling their eyes in religious disgust and dismay at such outlandish behavior.  
Would you have been able to hang with Jesus and the bros?  Or would the discomfort have been too much for your religious piety?   Would you have been the one handing out tracts to the party goers as they left outlining the steps towards accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? Would you have handed Jesus Christ a tract?   Would you have been too uncomfortable to be where Jesus was?  John Eldredge, author of Beautiful Outlaw says, “If you can’t take your church culture and language and drop it in the middle of a bar or a bus and have it make winsome sense to the people there, then it’s not from Jesus. Because that is exactly what he would do.  That’s what made him the real deal.” 
Rob Bell often reminds me of someone else I know, someone who instead of answering the accusations of the religious leaders of his days could be found drawing in the sand with a quiet proclamation of, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone” John 8:7.  Rob Bell may have impure motives.  Rob Bell may be following exactly what his Lord asked of him and that is to meet everyone right where they are.  To meet the lesbian in her lesbian marriage, the wrung out coke addict on the street corner shaking and cold as he comes down from a high, the drunkard, smack dab in the middle of a bar in all his desperately drunk and needy state, the beautiful homecoming queen at the mall as she’s picking out a dress for her painfully thin, anorexic body that never looks good enough in her eyes, or the Bible thumping evangelical in his Perry Ellis suit and tie, perfectly pressed and put together in his heterosexual marriage and two kids, yet yearning for something resembling a relationship with the God he rants and raves about.    Why can’t we all be where Jesus is, right in the middle of the action, right in the middle of the desperation, right in the middle of the gay community, right in the middle of the wedding at Cana?   
Who will reach people with hate?  Jesus met the centurion on the road, he met Peter in the middle of lake, and he met the disciples on the beach after his resurrection.  Jesus drops his divinity and his Lordship right in the middle of our needs – always. Wouldn’t it make sense then if we are becoming more and more like him to do as he does and meet people right in the middle of where they are?
Jesus came to abolish the law, not to create law upon law upon law that no one can possibly live up under.  If we are going after gay marriage than we, as believers, need to attack so many other things with just as much vigor.  Slander, gossip, strife, those who are unequally yoked together in marriage, our teens involved in sex outside of marriage (yes, even the actions that aren’t penetrating in nature; although I know the “good” kids slide on that one quite often) wives who withhold sexual affection from their husbands, husbands who treat their wives like slaves, those who wear earrings and display tattoos (the Old Testament is allowed, correct?) My point is, the endless list of can’s and can nots will not end.  We are saved by the unmerited, undeserved, and unwarranted grace of Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ alone. 
to me,
 is Rob Bell’s point.  
Meet people exactly where they are, don’t point fingers unless you want someone pointing fingers at your life, and remember, that it is through Christ’s blood and blood alone that we ALL have access to the Heavenly Father.
Just keep livin!!

12 thoughts on “Rob Bell, You Stinker….

  1. I think Rob has subsequently made his position clear – he is for gay marriage. I don’t see how you could come to any other conclusion than that, despite Rob’s ever continuing desire to be “ambiguous”. Oh, and “a woman and a woman; a man and a man” is 10 words, not 9.

  2. I stand corrected. When I wrote the first draft the wording was a woman and a woman; man and a man, 9 words. As I edited the entry I realized that I took an original “a” out of Rob’s wording. This, to me, is the kind of insignificant stuff that I think Rob is trying to deter us all from. And, this comment from you, an anonymous person, doesn’t hold a whole lot of respect from a person like me willing to put my neck on the line and for that matter a man like Rob Bell, who does everything nonanonymously. I don’t know for sure, just my take on it all, but I think that the whole controversy is ridiculous. Let’s focus on meeting people exactly where they are and not nitpicking this lifestyle versus that lifestyle, this sin versus that sin, and let’s love people as Christ would love them, in their sinful natures in need of a Savior.

  3. I applaud you (and Rob) for stepping out and tackling this subject. I understand where many’s system of thought is having trouble with this, and I will tell you what I have told others. I fought with this for a long time, too. I realized that I was complicating it. We must know the past, The Old Testament, to better understand The New. However, so many get hung up on the old laws. It is important to get Christ’s teachings. He taught us to love Him and each other and to take care of each other. It is no wonder I (and many others) were always so messed up about God. We had no idea that Jesus Christ only asked two “commandments” of us… In place of the Old Testament law, we are under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and to love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). If we obey those two commands, we will be fulfilling all that Christ requires of us: “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:40).

  4. Well I think the issue always is showing God’s love to all,recognizing our own sin first and foremost,and trying to live a life that is pleasing to God.If you look through the bible it is a story of man always turning from God, falling away and living a life that is about pleasing themselves. Time and again God spoke to us asking us to repent and follow Him. Unfortunately we have too easily assimilated into popular culture doing what is best in our eyes,and have paid the price for it. God’s amazing Grace saves us over and over. None of us are perfect,but we serve a perfect Father. The bible is pretty specific about what displeased Him, we can’t make it ok just cause it goes with what is politically correct.But we can show our brothers and sisters love…..Holly

  5. Thank you for your comment. I have fought inwardly with these very issues being brought up very much under the “law” of dos and don’ts but I stand by my premise,(and it sounds like we are in agreement with this) when we step away from religion and sometimes even what we have been taught our whole lives and start to look at the scriptures for ourselves, Christ begins to reveal to us what He’s really all about and you are absolutely correct, we are called to love the Lord our God and love our neighbor as our ourselves.

  6. I don’t think the article works. In the paragraph following Bell’s comment “We need to affirm people wherever they are,” you list a variety of issues that are normally classified by many (not all) as issues of Christian liberty (adiaphora). You then write, “Christ, the God of the Universe, did have an opinion on this stuff but these sins, these lifestyle choices, were not the focus of his ministry…” A few sentences later you write, “He met the Samaritan woman at the well, he met the blind man at the pool of Siloam, and he met the disabled man at the pool in Jerusalem.” It is a major ethical problem to identify the issue of white vs blue collar careers as “these sins” or equate serial marriages with being disabled. This is the problem when sin is reduced to/equated with brokenness (an inherent condition with no culpability). Affirming and accepting an alcoholic where they are at, requires we provide support to move out of that condition. Now, Christians certainly need to have a conversation on where the issue of homosexuality falls (sin, adiaphora, gift from God), but we must understand these categories. We owe it to the homosexual community to be very clear on whether we see them as “broken”, sinful, or differently endowed.

  7. I write because I desire others to know the truth of God, not to begin an argument. It saddens me and frustrates me to see people led astray by men such as Rob Bell who have a very slippery tongue. If Rob Bell were committed to preaching the Word of God, he would be very clear on what his beliefs were, he would not leave them ambiguous or up for interpretation. God’s Word is not ambiguous or up for interpretation either- and neither should we be. By not clearly stating he is against gay marriage, he is stating that he is for gay marriage. As he claims to be preaching the Word of God, we look to His Word for our answer: Romans 1: 26-28 (please note this is from the New Testament, not the old Testament, which some commenters seem to think can be disregarded, I disagree)” For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections; for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their ERROR which was due. And even, to do those things which are not convenient.” Clearly states that they are of a reprobate mind.Another unambiguous verse is Lev 18:22: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is an abomination.”I know that many may say that I am not showing love by not accepting people as they are. The world fails to understand the type of love that I am showing which is true love: a love that desires the salvation of those around me (Romans 10:1). How can I say I am showing love to someone when I am ignoring their sin which will separate them from the love of God? Yes we all have our sin, and God forgives but he requires from us that we repent and TURN from this sin (no matter what it is). There is a beautiful account in the Bible in John 8 below- read the whole chapter if you have time- we are called to forgive and love and Jesus does the same but notice in the end Jesus says to the sinning woman, “go thy way AND SIN NO MORE.” He does forgive! But, we must turn from our sin. He will not forgive if we do not show our love to Him and we purposefully continue in our sin (go back to Romans 1:28 mentioned earlier: “as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.”) I’ll begin at verse 3 of John 8:“3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, 4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. 5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? 6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. 7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. 8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. 9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. 10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those, thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: GO, AND SIN NO MORE. 12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.thanks for reading,Becca

  8. Wow! I loved this truly!!! I love Rob Bell. I believe he has been called to make people think. The Sadducees and the Pharisees of today love to hate him. I think Christ loves to use him to stir things up and not let us get settled in our comfort zones or at least he uses Rob Bell as His prostitute who’s about to get stoned. The man is brilliant and studied and you can see he truly loves The Lord. I think his fruit is shown in his love for Christ and his love for “the conversation”. I’ve read most of his books and he’s very clear that he loves to keep the clock ticking in our brains. No black and whites. Doctrine is black and white. Dogma isn’t. Dogma is that faux paint you put on a fresco that’s 1500 years old. I love this about Rob Bell: he takes the bible, and with extensive study on the Old and New Testament, he fills in the blanks. He’s studied Hebrew thought, he’s studied the church fathers and medival Christianity. In bible college we studied tradition, scripture, community, and spirit: Rob Bell takes these all into account. To make an accurate an deducted argument, you have to place all the pieces. And just as an investigator doesn’t know the answers to everything, he pieces them together. We must do the same.
    The scriptures tell us that sexual immorality is wrong. It’s doctrine. Is sin. But scripture tells us to love the sinner. Scripture tells us to not be like the world, but we are atill in community with the rest of the world. I am righteous in Christ…NOT BY MY OWN ACCOUNT! I fail everyday! His grace is sufficient…abundant…unabusable! I can love my gay friends. Dare I say, I can live with them being marriages, WITHOUT it affecting my life. I already pay taxes and give to Caesar what’s his. I also tithe and give what’s God’s to God. I think we live in a country where it’s been ingrained in our lives that my religion means my politics…but the scriptures say the people wanted to make Jesus King. He rode in on a donkey. He told them, no….it’s not my time. The next time I return, I’ll do it the fathers way…tradition also tells us the Christians were rather like today’s Jehovah’s Witnesses….no military service and no political commitment…no loyalty to anyone but Christ. I’m not saying Republicans and Democrats are bad or that our government is a waste…I’m just saying our early church fathers preserved our Christian heritage without the need of laws, rules, and doctrine imposed on others to be the greatest missionary movement this world has ever seen. My focus is on Christ my focus is on loving the church. my focus is on loving the unchurched and those hurt by the church and loving so unconditionally that I lay down my rights knowing that I am not of this world, but a part of the Kingdom of God and I this Kingsom….I know the end result. I know that all order will be restored and the only way I can help others reAch some semblance of restoration is through the gates of the Kingdom of God through Christ alone. I will love men and women all through my life, just to show people that He loved me first. I was worthy of His salvation and so is anyone else….no matter where they stand. His love will go to the end of the universe and back just to keep His child. I love that about our God. I love that He loves me. He is holy and his character is so amazing and unchanging towards man…I love it. The least I can do is love his people.

    Again…I got carried away….I love this post. I truly believe you understand what Rob Bell meAnt. It all has to do with being teachable and moldable. I can become a rabbi, but every rabbi never stops calling their rabbi, rabbi. God has mysteries He makes known to us everyday and we must be willing to listen to His Spirit and I believe that’s the Essenes of Rob Bells writings…thank you so much for this again.

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