Why I deeply respect Rob Bell

In 2000, Eminem released a song off of his highly famous CD the Marshall Mathers LP called “I Am”. I Am is a song written from Eminem, to his critics telling them that he has become what they have made him out to be, their enemy. After being protested for his lyrics, which were his own reflections of his dark past with his abandoned father, drug addict mother and abusive wife, Eminem became the target of many communities, including Christians. After being treated like the enemy, he embraced the role and lashed out against others with it. This long time #1 single is the evidence of it.

This past summer, Lebron James decided that he could no longer play with Cleveland Cavaliers because they didn’t have the potential and market to win NBA Championships. After a very narcissistic, self-promoting free agent campaign, he capitalized on the free agency frenzy and his media campaign by creating the infamous TV hour-long segment “The Decision”. Lebron’s narcissism and abandonment of his own home town team created him to be the biggest villain in the NBA. Not to long after this, he embraced the role of the enemy, by sarcastically lashing out against the league and the fans by creating this Nike commercial:

This week, the wonderfully insightful and caring theologian, Scot McKnight released his response to the lessons we can pull from Rob Bell’s highly controversial new book, Love Wins (http://bit.ly/ioL5XR). After reading these thoughts by Scot, I found myself in agreement with most of what he had to say. For me, the most life changing part about Love Wins has not been the actual book itself, but, the way Rob has responded to it.

Interview after interview, Rob has been torn apart by the media, calling him out on things he hasn’t said, telling him he is, who he really isn’t. People have trashed his reputation and his identity. People from his church receive the heat from his book. Bloggers and theologians have trashed him and created him as the enemy of the “truth”. They have accused him of pushing people away from God. Many of us, have made Rob the enemy. But, Rob has never once responded back with anything but kindness. He has not resorted to violent retaliation. In fact, he has loved those who have made him out to be the enemy. Something, I think Christ has been known to do.

I have my disagreements with Love Wins but I have walked away in more awe of Rob because of his class, demeanor and proven Christ-like behavior. I believe that if there is anything we can learn from Love Wins, it does not come from the book itself, but, it comes from the generous and gracious response of the man who wrote it. Rob could have easily fallen into the traps of those wanting to make him the villain, but, he has lovingly stood his ground and shown us something far greater.

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13 thoughts on “Why I deeply respect Rob Bell

  1. Stephanie says:

    Absolutely Mike, well put!
    http://theyoungwidowsrant.blogspot.com/2011/03/oh-oh-oh-love-wins-alright.html
    Here’s what I said after his response to all the hoopla his first day back at Mars Hill after the release, we have the same idea. (Great minds do think alike;-). Rob continues to show us what Christ looks like, and regardless of the book’s contents, how can we argue his teaching of love!

  2. he has handled it incredibly well – and I would even say that has given his point legitimacy – as in Rob’s life love does win.

  3. mindy says:

    Great post – I attend Mars Hill and it’s definitely been an interesting/challenging season to be a part of the church, but my respect for Rob continues to go up all the time.

  4. ibookwormarlow says:

    I whole-heartedly agree, Mike. I too have wrestled with some of the ideas raised in the book, but I think that may be one of the points of the book- to wrestle with things that largely go unquestioned and that we assume to be true. My respect and admiration for Rob grows, particularly in regard to his loving and Christlike response to his critics. A well put blog!

    Please keep writing, friend and brother!

  5. meritabread says:

    I had heard of Rob Bell several years before, briefly. But I did not know at that time that he taught the greater hope, as it is sometimes called. Now that I’ve come across his material again during all the controversy, I admire him for his grace under fire and for his courage and honesty to ask questions about things (which many people in traditional Christendom haven’t been able to able to admit) that don’t make sense. It’s almost as if the current theology is “If you ask any questions, you will automatically burn in Hell.” For about four years now I have embraced the hope in the Restitution of all Things, and I am glad to see a prominent minister choose to speak about this truth from scripture despite persecution. Kind of reminds me of a someone the Catholic church called a heretic ages ago…I think his name was Martin Luther.

  6. Carmel says:

    thankyou for writing this. i have come out of 4 years working in a church and being weighed down by constantly coming under fire for every decision made or idea spoken. my job had less and less to do with showing/revealing God, living out His love and seeing lives transformed than with running the gauntlet of committees and negotiating careful pathways. its a life that wears you down. rob bell has always inspired me to chase after the truth of who God is and not bow to what i’m told to believe, and i’ve watched this latest scene unfold with sadness but hope in the way he has handled it. then i went to see him speak in London recently at a time when so much about church and God is difficult for me, and i felt hopeful again, and free again, and i wanted to read my bible again. and i smiled. a lot.

    God bless his kids who will stand firm but overflow with love to those who hate them. and God stir the hearts of those who are so anxious to defend with anger their understanding of Him as the only understanding.

    • mfries05 says:

      I am so sorry for what happened to you in ministry. The more and more I move forth, the more I have found people who have been burned for questioning and in their kind replies to being burned, they develop a sense of anger a resentment that overcomes them with cynicism and hopelessness. I’m glad Rob was able to rekindle something in you that caused you to smile again and read your bible again. I am so grateful for people like yourself who push forward in love and in Truth.

  7. OneWayBlog says:

    I don’t know him personally, but if what you are all saying about Rob Bell’s loving responses to criticism is true, then this is indeed a great example of how to answer angry words. However – particularly when you open a discussion which involves arguments for freedom to question – you have to be prepared to receive criticism and have your theories unpicked too.

    My own view is that this debate could be centring on the wrong issues. I have written more on this here:

    http://onewaypublishing.co.uk/blog/archives/336

    While all believers continue growing in revelation and understanding of what they are and what have in Christ (no-one simply arrives), there are also absolutes in the word which we need to concretely engaged with to be able to effectively continue on the journey towards spiritual maturity. If you don’t have biblical boundaries you are in danger of undermining the faith you espouse.

    That said, we also have to assess our positions and pre-suppositions. Dialogue and discourse of this kind is healthy as long we respect the word and each other equally.

  8. matthewhyde says:

    Thank you for being one of the blogs to talk sense about the whole Rob Bell thing. I’ve listened to his sermons via iTunes and I’ve always valued his insight and the way in which he communicates the Gospel. Because of this, it’s sad to see him trashed so often, and so it’s good to see him handle things with grace.

    Great blog, by the way!

  9. Jen says:

    This is one of the best review-ish things I’ve read about Bell’s book and there have been a ton. Good tie-ins by the way with Eminem and LeBron. The Nike campaign was genius, and so is a Christian responding to criticism the way Christ would have.

  10. Kurt Willems says:

    Agreed. Rob is a man full of integrity. When he gets spat upon, he does not retaliate… interesting. Maybe he does follow Jesus afterall?!!!

  11. hvermont says:

    Meritabread: “The restitution of all things” should not be understood as a snippet taken out of the Scriptures. It is “the restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets” Acts 3:21. We cannot expect restitution to go beyond that which the Scriptures teach.

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