During May, I spent time with Rob Bell’s book Love Wins: a book about Heaven, Hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived. The title gives away a lot; the over arching message is that God’s love is bigger, more powerful, more intense than we could ever comprehend.
The first chapter is full of a lot of questions. You probably yourself have asked many of these questions, or you at least know someone who has.
“Will only a select number ‘make it to a better place’”?
“How does a person end up being one of the few? Chance? Luck?
“What happens when a fifteen-year-old atheist dies?”
“What are heaven and hell really like?”
The rest of the book works on answering some of those questions, or at least getting the reader to think about them in a way, that might be new, where God’s love is always the starting place.
On the subject of heaven, Bell greatly widens the common concept and says: “there’s heaven now, somewhere else. There’s heaven here, sometime else. And then there’s Jesus’ invitation to heaven here and now, in this moment, in this place” (p 62). And if that doesn’t get you thinking enough, he goes on to talk about hell, since, as he reminds us “[love] can’t be forced, manipulated, or coerced. It always leaves room for the other to decide. God says yes, we can have what we want, because love wins” (p 119). This is to say that not everyone will necessarily end up “in heaven” but that God’s love gives everyone the chance to say no or not say no. Anyone can choose to say no, but then they will encounter “the very real consequences” of rejecting “the good and true and beautiful life that God has for us” (p 93). This is not to say that we have to live perfectly, never say no, always look to God, because that is not possible for any human, broken as we are. We all will doubt, question, stumble, or struggle at some point in our lives, but when we do “we’re told a better story,” God’s “good news is better than that” (p 191).
Rob Bell concludes the book with an eloquent prayer for each of you: “may you experience this vast, expansive, infinite, indestructible love that has been yours all along. May you discover that this love is as wide as the sky and as small as the cracks in your heart no one else knows about. And may you know, deep in your bones, that love wins.” I commend this book to you, because what better topic than God’s love to answer your questions, quell your fears, and brighten your light in the world?