What happened to Matthew 25:34-40?

th-7  In the past few weeks images of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, alongside the pictures of desperate Syrians jumping off flimsy rubber boats, or worse, their children’s corpses washing up on the beach, have rendered me fairly mute. Are there words eloquent enough to express the heart wrenching emotion of these events? Is there any wisdom to offer making sense of this global chaos? What is an appropriate response to madness? 

FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 4, 2015 file photo, a Syrian refugee child sleeps in his father's arms while waiting at a resting point to board a bus, after arriving on a dinghy from the Turkish coast to the northeastern Greek island of Lesbos. Bold ideas for helping Syrian refugees and their overburdened Middle Eastern host countries are gaining traction among international donors who were shocked into action by this year's migration of hundreds of thousands of desperate Syrians to Europe. (AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File)

(AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen, File)

th-8Then there’s The Donald and others waving Bibles while spouting rhetoric filled with fear, anger and vengeance representing the face of American Christianity. As a follower of Christ myself, I want to tell the world, those people do not represent me.

But where is there somebody offering a Christian message as I understand it? Where’s the Jesus guy who stands with the poor, the whores, and the sick? Where’s the teacher who forgives 70 times 70 and turns back a killing mob by suggesting “he without sin cast the first stone?”

What happened to Matthew 25:34-40?

‘Come you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ and the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it one to of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’

Awards, Xander TaylorI recently  took my daughter’s suggestion and listened to #47 of the RobCastRob Bell‘s interview with British evangelical leader, Steve Chalke. While famous in England, he was unknown to me. Chalke was born in South London, a poverty-entrenched area. His accent reveals his roots, a “bloke” of the common class. Of unremarkable parentage, society didn’t expect much from him. At age 14 he was attending a Baptist youth group, mainly to be close to a pretty girl he fancied. Though she rejected him, he discovered the Christian message and relationship with spirit that set his thinking apart from those around him.

One night on a walk home after church, he received a vision of himself. He would open schools, hostels, and run hospitals. He would work with the disenfranchised, the abused, neglected. Society’s rejects.

In other words, he would represent Christ on earth in very practical ways. When he was 24, he and his wife, Cornelia, founded their first hostel for abused teens and named it The Oasis. That was the beginning. Bringing his vision to fruition, he took over management of violent, failing schools and dilapidated churches and shepherded them into places of vitality, kindness, and success.

288743_503411136339400_1953442212_o Much like Father Greg Boyle and Homeboy Industries is transforming the gang culture of Los Angeles, Chalke is working from the inside out of a rotting British society to restore and renew people through the simple message of love and compassionate action that Christ taught.

They may not be the loudest voices in the din, these workers of the Light. They aren’t followed around by media hounds trying to get the next sound bite. Like Mother Teresa, like Salvation Army Founders William and Catherine Booth, and countless other ministries across the globe, the followers of Christ are feeding the poor, helping the widows, and sharing the good news of God’s love. It’s that simple and easily overlooked in the noise and chaos of politics and anger.

I hope that in the next elections I have the opportunity to vote for someone who lives by the standard ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it one to of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ Even if I don’t, I’ll keep supporting the people who live by that philosophy because it’s clear to me that is the true path to peace on earth.

jesus_embracing_kid_

It was the way Christ fought the terrorists of his time and still the best model for us today.  The Light still overcomes the Dark.

Listen Here: Steve Chalke and the Oasis Story

For more information visit:

Oasis, UK    Homeboy Industries  Tattoos on the Heart

 

 

Rob Bell, My Favorite Heretic

Rob-Bell0Rob Bell can be described in many ways–Christian pastor, bestselling author, Oprah favorite….  Heretic.

The latter label was bandied about when he published LOVE WINS and asserted that hell was only a metaphor Jesus was talking about and not an actual eternal destination. In the storm that followed, he left the church he had founded and went rogue from the Establishment.

This summer he and his children are touring the center of the US taking his message on the road. Saturday night my daughter and I caught him in St. Louis at the Pageant Theatre/club, a venue more often the site of boozy headliners than evangelists. But it was exactly the sort of place Jesus might have hung out in his day.

As a modest rogue Christian myself, who thoroughly enjoyed LOVE WINS, seeing Bell in person for a mere $25 sounded like an interesting evening out. It was a very low tech event–a large white board and only one colored marker provided the special effects. Mr. Bell strolled on stage in casual khaki clothes and didn’t even offer a showy costume change.

41m9eQeUAkLWhat he did offer was something we rarely see any more–ideas. He began his talk with the big bang theory  and moved into the evolution of the universe,  and the appearance of humankind. He presented a case for an ever expanding creation that must have some Divine Intelligence holding it all together.

He crossed into my territory when he explained everything as energy. Each person is one energetic being interacting with another energetic being.

Bell is a gifted, charismatic speaker who can be wise, humble, funny, self-deprecating and controversial.  He spoke out against racism in the heart of city where Michael Brown’s death touched off national awareness of deep-rooted social divides. For me, Bell represents a Christianity that is actually following the example of Jesus, rather than perpetuating outdated concepts from stagnated religious organizations.

He spoke for two hours and never lost his audience. He is more teacher than evangelist and ultimately the message is simple. God is Love. Love is the greatest power of the Universe.

It’s not a new message, but it’s sure one the world needs to understand  and embrace. So, from one heretic to another–thanks for an uplifting  evening, Mr. Bell. I enjoyed it immensely.

Shining the Light–

Dana Taylor

Visit the Rob Bell website at RobBell.com

Read my review of LOVE WINS

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chiming in on Rob Bell’s LOVE WINS

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever LivedOnce in a while a book comes along that gets people all riled up, bringing forth either enthusiastic praise or vehement wrath. Such a book is LOVE WINS: A BOOK ABOUT HEAVEN, HELL, AND THE FATE OF EVERY PERSON WHO EVER LIVED by Rob Bell. Check out the 563 customer reviews at Amazon to get a flavor of the furor.

Bell is the founding pastor of the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He bears a respectable educational pedigree from Wheaton College and Fuller Theological Seminary. So what has he done to cause such a stir? The buzz claimed “Rob Bell says there is no hell.”

To many outside the church such a belief solicits a “So what, who cares?” response. But to the thousands of believers who define their faith on the tenet of eternal damnation unless one makes a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ, them is fightin’ words.

I decided I needed to read the book and judge for myself. This was my first exposure to Bell, who is surely an engaging speaker. The style of the book reads like an interesting sermon series. It begs to be read aloud. The placement of words on the page is often poetical.

For emphasis.

Rather than a pedantic expression of his opinions, Bell asks a lot of questions about the basic beliefs of scores of Protestant churches. He is logical—and disturbing. If God is an “all loving Father,” then how can he cast his children into everlasting fire? Hmmm.

For Bell, the question isn’t so much about what happens “over there,” but what is happening “here.” Is there a hell? Open the newspaper, read about the wars, famine, mass executions in Mexico, the domestic violence, sexual slavery. Hell? Why sure.  It is here and now.

The real question is how to bring forth “Your Will on Earth as it is in Heaven” as envisioned in the Lord’s Prayer. Bell’s answer is coming into relationship with the living Christ. The expansive, can’t-be-contained or-totally-understood Messenger of the Good News.

Bell speaks to the disenfranchised, the people turned off by the fire and brimstone message. He breaks down the dogmatic walls. For those comfortably dwelling within those walls, he is a heretic. For those outside the walls, he offers hope.