Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Gods Aren't Angry

I went last night to see Rob Bell at the Wiltern in Los Angeles on his "The gods Aren't Angry" tour. First of all, it was my first time to the Wiltern and it's a pretty amazing venue. I sat in the balcony on a rather uncomfortable seat, but I had a good view of the stage and a Coke in my hands, so it wasn't all bad.

On the stage was a stone structure, which we later learned was an altar. Other than that, nothing on the stage at all. The lights dimmed and an opera starting playing rather loudly until finally Rob Bell came out onto the stage. "Sooooo...... there's a cave-woman...." Anyway, he talked about how people early on in the history of man started to notice a correlation between the sun and the moon and food and weather, and everything else. They began to see that all of it was connected. And they attributed good things with gods who were blessing them, and bad things with gods that were angry. And so the altar became central to civilization. If the gods are in a good mood and blessing you, well then you offer them more so that they will continue to be happy and bless you. And if the gods are angry, then you offer them more so that they will become happy and bless you once again. The whole system is burdensome. A person never knows where they stand in relation to the gods - are they happy with me, have I done enough, or are they angry with me? And then the God of the Hebrews comes along to this man named Abraham. He tells him to take his son and sacrifice him on the altar, but before he is able to do so, God tells him to stop and sacrifice a lamb instead. Suddenly this is a God who reaches out to man and provides for man - including the sacrifice. And as the law develops in Leviticus, we see all kinds of rules about sacrifice - including 5 different types of sacrifice. Rob Bell argues that is a revolutionary idea. God is telling people this is exactly what you do, how you do it, etc. For the first time there are no more questions about "Did I do enough? Is God still angry? Is he pleased with me?" When you leave it on the altar it is done and over.

Then, Jesus rolls around and begins saying things like destroy this temple and I will rebuild it in three days. Jesus is once again introducing a completely new concept - that is that the old system is done with. It's no longer necessary. In fact in Hebrews it even says that the blood of animals could never cover sin. It never worked. What the heck then? Why did they do it? It wasn't for God's sake, it was for their sake. It allowed them to function guilt free. And now Jesus has said that all of it is done away with and now all of our sin is gone. So Rob Bell's talk was basically about grace. There were lots of personal stories thrown in, as well as stories from his church. The basic point in the end was that we become instruments for God's grace here when we do good and we free people from the sense that they have to somehow appease God in order to make him happy. He made the statement that any system that weighs down, adds lists to do, etc. is not of God, because our God isn't keeping score. There's no "celestial clipboard in the sky" that God is checking off. Many people live their lives as if God is angry - they do things (church, bible reading, etc.) simply to appease God and keep him off their backs. Other things they don't do (enter any sin here) because they don't want to make him angry. We realize how strange and primitive these things were in the past, and yet our culture continues many of the same practices on today. I love grace. It's amazing. And I'm sure I will never fully comprehend it, but it's an incredible concept and I had a good time hearing Rob Bell speak about it in a fresh way.


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