Some time back I did a post I called “Why I don’t believe in hell.” In the very first sentence I confess that the title is just an attention grabber and that I’m actually posting to highlight the absolute importance of placing one’s faith in Jesus Christ to be saved. We aren’t saved by believing all the right things (including believing (as I do) that there is a hell) – but are, instead, saved by placing our faith in the right Person!
That post has received a lot of nice comments. A few folks had a hard time getting past the subject line and wanted to be sure that I was on “their side” in the “hell debate” (even though I quoted directly from our church Manual) but by and large the exchanges have been positive and friendly. I’ve accepted all those to be published as comments on the post.
However, every month or so I get a response intended to prove to me that hell exists or which accuses me of abandoning the faith. Obviously, that person either didn’t read the article or didn’t understand what they read. Those comments never see the light of day.
Simply stated, that’s not how Christians interact with one another. We don’t ignore what people say so we can score points for Jesus. We don’t accuse people of things without taking time to hear them out.
The Lord doesn’t commission Bible toten’ gun slingers to ride the range gunning down outlaws. Now, I know that some nice people simply lack the tools to think through some issues and I know that others operate so far beyond me that they see flaws in my opinions that have escaped me. The best I am able I want to be charitable to the first group. At the same time, I hope the second group will do the same for me.
My suggestion to some who scan the Internet for people who need to be “gunned down” is that you at least take time to read what is said before you commence firing.
I was in the early days of the ministry when someone suggested I read Robert Schuller’s book about possibility thinking. It told the story of his starting a church at a drive-in in southern California. He was a disciple of Norman Vincent Peale. The book was quite inspirational, especially Schuller’s positive message concerning the Lord’s work in our lives.
Of course, his approach to the topic is now heard in Joel Osteen’s health and wealth message.
My response to his “possibility thinking” book though, wasn’t as radical. I came away challenged to trust God, always remembering his love and good will toward us – that he sees a way through when I can’t.
I moved on from Schuller. Never read another of his books or watched him preach a sermon. Still, that one book became a small part of my spiritual DNA – helping to form me into an optimistic Christian rather than taking a more narrow, pessimistic view of things. Sometimes when I’m around people who constantly grumble and complain or see those on the Internet who are constantly at war with other Christians because of some areas of disagreement, I wish they’d gotten a shot of possibility thinking early in their lives too.
Even before Schuller’s retirement from the day to day operation of his mega-ministry things were going south at the Crystal Cathedral. He tried to turn the ministry over to his family members, but unlike the Osteen story, the children couldn’t fill the father’s shoes. Last year the Crystal Cathedral filed for bankruptcy protection and these days there’s a real chance that the entire church campus will become a Roman Catholic facility, although there remains a chance that the church building itself might remain in the hands of the ministry if a university manages to get the property.
Even though my theology is quite distant from that of Schuller and this toppling mega-church I can’t help but remember reading his book today and realizing that the Lord used it to help shape my thinking in ways that still influence me today.