[NOTE: Be watching for our "Day1 Conversation" with Rob Bell, coming soon on Day1.org.]
I never set out to be controversial.
That's not compelling to me. When someone sets out to be controversial or provocative or shocking as an end in itself, I don't think that's a noble goal.
That being said, I spend the past several years writing a book called Love Wins which released last week and, from what I'm told, has generated a fair bit of, well, controversy.
So why did I write the book?
First, as a Christian pastor I believe that for many in our culture the Christian story has lost the plot and a number of other stories have been told that have nothing to with who Jesus is and why he came.
I believe that God loves everybody and that Jesus came to give us and show us and invite us into that love so that we can experience it and then share it with others. As Jesus himself said, he didn't come to condemn but to save.
The first people who heard the announcement that God has not given up on the world but sent Jesus to save us from all of the ways we've made a mess of things, they called this "good news."
Who doesn't need good news?
This leads me to another reason why I wrote the book. Over the years I've interacted with a massive number of people who have questions about the Christian faith.
What about heaven and hell? What about people who have never heard of Jesus? Are billions of people who aren't Christians going to burn in torment forever?
How is that good news?
And then the big question, the one that lurks behind all of the others: "What is God like?"
For many these questions are obstacles; barriers to faith. And so I wrote this book to address these questions. Obviously, I haven't spoken the last word on any of these subjects. My book is part of an ongoing discussion people have been having for thousands of years about the things that matter most.
When we enter in to this discussion, the one about heaven and hell and salvation and God and the future of the world, our questions matter because to ask is to acknowledge our need, which requires tremendous humility. And God can work with that, because God is in the give and take.
"What do you think?" is a question Jesus often asked. We are wise to pause here and remember that Jesus rarely answered someone's question with a direct yes or no or with an even remotely straight forward answer. He tells a story, he spins a parable, he point to flowers and birds.
This isn't because he's avoiding the questions or he's scared to come clean on where he really stands. It's because he understands that some truths can't be crammed into sound-bytes.
And then another reason, which is really an invitation. I recently received an email from a woman who had just finished reading the new book. She said it was ''...Like when you scuba dive and you first breathe in the oxygen. At first it feels a little panicky, like you can't breathe. It doesn't fit. But if you give it a minute and relax, you can breathe. You can breathe in places you've never even tried to breathe before and can see things you couldn't see unless you let that panicky feeling be there for a bit. Then it's underwater...to unseen life."
I love how she uses that word "panicky" because that's how faith is. You stumble into something new, you hear something you haven't heard before, and first it's jarring, strange, even shocking, and yet you know something life giving is lurking in there. And so you keep going.
Jesus said "Repent," which means to "be transformed."
Let the good news grab you, disrupt you, unsettle you and shake you up. Lose your life and find it, die and be reborn, take a breath, open your eyes, and see things you've never seen before.
It's an ancient invitation, a pressing, urgent wake up call to say yes to this Jesus and the love of God he insists is for every single one of us, right now, here, today.
If that invitation, that insistence, that message and that conviction cause controversy, I'll accept that.
Because now, more than ever, good news is what we need.
[Originally posted on The Huffington Post, March 25, 2011; used with permission.]