An Evening With Rob Bell
This is a guest post from my 23 year old son, Ryan.
This past Saturday night I had the wonderful opportunity to see Rob Bell’s tour “The God’s Aren’t Angry” at the Roseland Theater here in Portland, Oregon. If you’re familiar with his video series called “Nooma” you’ll know that Bell is an incredible story teller. The friend who I was with mentioned afterwards that she felt he somehow manages to talk to us about the same things that we’ve heard in church all of our lives in a totally different manner that is both engaging and shows a different angle to see the Bible. I totally agree with her.
At best guess the theater was able to hold close to 350-400 people on both a main floor and a wraparound balcony. By the time Mr. Bell. came on stage I could only see a few chairs that were not occupied by people eager to see him speak. The stage itself was dominated by a large four sided alter with steps leading up the sides facing stage-left and stage-right respectively. As he spoke, he paced back and forth in front of the alter and even around the alter when it was the focus of his speaking.
Coming in to the theater I wasn’t sure exactly what the focus of the speaking was going to be but as I listened it started to make more sense. Mr. Bell started out by talking about the idea of what the gods were like during the time of Abraham. The idea that if you were in good health and had good crops and healthy children the gods were smiling on you, but if you were sick, poor, or had misfortune the gods were displeased with you. The problem was that if the gods smiled on you, you needed to give them big sacrifices to show you are grateful for the favor. If the gods frowned on you, you needed to give them big sacrifices to apologize for whatever you had done. It would get to the point where you didn’t know if you were apologizing or showing thanks. You never knew exactly where you stood with the gods.
Then God first speaks to Abraham. This was a concept that had never occurred to the people of Abraham’s world. The idea that a god would lower himself to the human level was unthinkable. Then when He ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son and then stopped him from carrying out that sacrifice, He revealed something else about Himself that was a new concept. God provided the sacrifice rather than Abraham having to do it. This was totally opposite from what all other gods required of their worshipers. God was in the process of showing Abraham how different He was from all of the other gods who were worshiped during those times.
When God gave the Laws to Moses he filled what would later be the first five chapters of the book of Leviticus with mind numbing details about how to perform five specific sacrifices. The most significant to this new system was the celebration meal where you were to sit down with family and eat a meal of celebration and give thanks for the peace that God would give you because of the sacrifices. No longer did you need to worry about apologizing or thanking God. You knew that you had his blessing when you made these sacrifices.
God’s system was further distanced from the religions of old when Jesus came into the world. He spoke against violence of all kinds in his ministry. Finally in His death on the cross He acted as the ultimate sacrifice so that none would think that they needed to continue to sacrifice to cover their own sins. The ultimate expression of God’s difference from the old gods was complete.
These tales tell us of a God who has spent the last three or four thousand years slowly revealing to the world how He is worthy of worship. He is not unpredictable and He is knowable. He does not require apologies or sacrifices to gain his favor. We already have it, and it is up to us to live in response to it.