At an event titled Seeds of Compassion on April 15 in Seattle there was a panel discussion involving representatives from different religions. Rob Bell, one of the Christian representatives, had this to say when asked how spirituality can be used for compassion rather than destruction:
“When somebody wrongs you, when they commit an injustice, when they do evil, whether it’s something petty or whether it’s the oppression of millions of people, it’s as if they have handed you this injustice, or evil. And so you can hand it back – that’s called revenge, that’s when you take the wrong, the evil, the injustice, the hurt, the betrayal, and you simply respond in kind. There is, next to revenge, another option, which is not to hand back the pain, which means that you’re going to have to bear that pain.
And when you choose not to respond with revenge or retaliation, but you choose to respond with forgiveness—and you choose to take it and bear that pain—it is going to be heavy, but it is going to lead to your freedom. It is going to feel like a death, but it is going to lead to a resurrection. It’s gonna feel like a Friday, but a Sunday is going to come.”
According to some, this was not a fitting response for a Christian because “there is nothing distinctly Christian about what Bell says.” The problem some will have with this opinion is that it assumes Christianity is tied to a certain language, and more specifically, to a few choice words rather than a way of life. The religion that says we must proclaim the name of Jesus continually, or to announce a certain sequence of words like “Jesus saves” or “Accept the Lord Jesus” is not based on the Scriptures but on a worldview that has little to do with the Jesus who walked along 1st century Israel’s dusty roads, and actually has more in common with witchcraft than with historic Christianity.
“It does no good to tell these people to believe in the Lord Jesus. The phrase is empty. My responsibility as a preacher of the gospel and a teacher in the church is not to preserve and repeat cherished biblical sentences, but to pierce the heart with biblical truth.”
(Desiring God pg. 55)
And on February 25, 2003, John Piper spoke these words at Northwestern College:
“We must imagine ways to say truth for what it really is, and it is not boring…The imagination calls up new words, new images, new analogies, new metaphors, new illustrations, new connections to say old, glorious truth.”
So when Rob Bell paraphrases 1 Peter 2:23-24 at an interfaith discussion panel, is he denying Christ, or is he taking John Piper’s advice and calling up new connections to say old truth?