Does Love Win?

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

Simply put, Yes.

See this whole “Rob Bell Love Wins” controversy is way bigger then a book, a tweet, or even a man. In fact, it goes all the way back to 2007 when Bell preached a sermon entitled Love Wins. The message was simple and yet provided a whole new way to look at the world. The message in all of this sermon was that Love Wins.The reason Love Wins is because Christ overcame the world.

Love won that day because Jesus had a choice in how he would respond to the evil that was done to Him. To all the mockers, to his friends leaving him, to the guards that beat Him, and even to the ones that put Him on the cross. We all can understand a response of fight, of revolt, of getting even, but in all of this He always responded with love. He never responded with hate, evil, or for that matter stooping to the level of those around him.

The message of hate is one that is old. It is a message of the way the universe use to be. That was until the death of Christ on the cross. The way we use to operate was that we sought out ways to pay others back, to get even, and even to bring pain. If someone hurt you with their words you figured out a way to one up them with a quick comeback that stung just a bit more. We are use to a world that is all about overcoming each other rather then the ways of the world. We are use to getting ahead, doing whatever it takes to get to the top. But Jesus says “I have overcome this world” and in that very act of love and overcoming, the world has changed.

We face this question everydayHow will we overcome? Do we respond with something evil or will we respond with good. This is all determined by how we view the way the universe works. If we see it in a way of evil vs evil then we will respond with revenge. If we see it in the way that Jesus has overcome the world then the response is good keeps winning and love wins.

What happens when we respond with love? Rob Bell says this:

The powers that appear to be winning lose and the person that appears to be losing wins.

The cross is God’s way of saying Love Wins.

I would highly suggest downloading Rob Bell Sermon “Love Wins

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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • Jay

    Does love always win?

    Answer: No.

    Why? Because of truth.

    I’ll explain. Christians that preach truth and do not preach love are legalists. Christians that preach love but do not preach truth are liberals (not in the political sense). There must be a balance between the two. Jesus often spoke of love. But He also spoke often of truth. In fact, in the New Testament, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth” 78 times throughout Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

    Bell’s emphasis on love as God’s primary attribute ignores that God is also holy and just. If we hold aloft love as the only virtue of the Gospel, then we begin to dismiss the reality of sin, which is an incorrect representation of salvation. As such, we then do a disservice to the complete offer of the Gospel to sinners.

    Remember, we are saved by grace. God in his infinite grace gives us what we do not deserve. His infinite mercy spares us from what we do deserve. Through the blood of Jesus, His death, burial and resurrection we are justified by God. Justified in the sense that we are declared righteous (it is a one time legal declaration by God). This is all made possible by the truth of what Jesus taught.

    You see, for the most part, there is a balance between love and truth. Like two trains on two separate tracks running parallel. However, there are times when love and truth are on a collision course. Love is speeding along and so is truth. When that happens, and the two collide, truth, not love, must win.

    I like Rob Bell. I think he is an amazing communicator. At the same time however, while I applaud his boldness in asking provocative questions, I have to say that his inability at times to answer those questions is troubling. His interview with Martin Bashir is a perfect example. Bashir asked very pointed and direct questions to which Bell did his best to navigate around and Bashir wasn’t having any of it. This is critical. Bell leads a church of over 10,000. Many of which are looking for answers. He has to be able to provide those answers not just “ask questions.”

    • Graham

      Interesting take Jay. In my life… I try to love people. I try to accept them as flawed individuals and recognize that they’re going to mess up from time to time. We should never stop loving people. However, it is sometimes hard to love someone who has let you down. The truth is, I don’t love everyone. There are people who have lost my trust and/or respect. And I don’t love them anymore.

      The way I interpret this whole “love wins” mantra of Bell’s is that even those people that I no longer respect or trust, I must still love. That’s where we will always fall short. I will never love the mass-murderer. But Jesus does.
      Am I wrong? Yes.
      Will I change? No.
      Does that make me human? Yes.
      Am I hiding behind that fact and using it as an excuse not to love? Probably.

      • Jay

        Graham, I don’t disagree with you. What I am saying is that biblical truth trumps what somebody might perceive to be biblical love.

        Let me give you an example. You have a married friend. You know he is engaged in an affair with another woman. Do you continue to love him? Of course. Do you allow him to continue to engage in that behavior without confronting him about his sin? You shouldn’t. You see, some people would say, “Well, it’s not my place to judge him. I just want to love him as a friend.” Calling him out on his behavior is not judgmental. It is an example of of speaking truth. In love. Just like it says in Ephesians 14:5.

        I think anybody that has questions about this should read Tim Keller’s excellent piece, “The Importance of Hell.”

        I love what he says at the end:

        We must come to grips with the fact that Jesus said more about hell than Daniel, Isaiah, Paul, John, Peter put together. Before we dismiss this, we have to realize we are saying to Jesus, the pre-eminent teacher of love and grace in history, “I am less barbaric than you, Jesus–I am more compassionate and wiser than you.” Surely that should give us pause! Indeed, upon reflection, it is because of the doctrine of judgment and hell that Jesus’ proclamations of grace and love are so astounding.

    • Kyle Reed

      I agree in some parts, but I think the biggest thing here is how do we speak the truth in love?
      I think that is what Bell is getting at with his message of Love Wins (and I am not referring to the book).
      Ultimately the truth of the gospel is grace and grace represents love.

      • Rick Smith

        The verse you quoted, Eph 4:15, is one of the most misused, out of context verses people throw around. I would encourage all Christians to really study the verse in context. The key is “truth” – and truth is much about what Jay talked about. Hell is truth. 2 Thes 1:9 is truth. That if you don’t have a relationship with God through Christ, and you die, you will be eternally separated from the goodness of God for ever. It’s a horrible, horrible place. A tragedy would be to speak lies in love. Truth is what we have to speak. The problem is our culture mistakes love for kindness. Sometimes saying things that is loving isn’t always ‘kind’ as the world sees it. Truth hurts. (Just ask Jesus. His truth cost Him His life.) But that is love. What is unloving is for anyone to lead people to think that Jesus calls us to any less then a FULLY devoted life of obedience to Him. Is it easy – no. But The Bible is an extremely exclusive faith. Extremely. In fact is says if you don’t believe the Jesus is the Son of God, and He is the only way to have our sins forgiven and made right with God – you will go to hell. Forever. We don’t like saying that to people because it sounds mean, but the truth is it is the most loving thing you can ever take the time to tell someone. So I guess in the end True Love does win…..if people believe it or not..

        Just a few things for us to reflect on.

    • Mark

      Thanks for the clarity, Jay. I’m also amazed at Rob Bell’s communication skills, his ability to provoke thought, to stimulate action. I’m a supporter of the constant questioning mentlity, because it keeps us from getting stuck in tradition that blinds us to truth. But we cannot let it lead to a “truth is unknown” philosophy. That’s the tune coming from our culture: “No one can know the truth, so believe what you feel and let everyone else do the same.” The nature of truth is that is knowable and that it does not contradict itself (i.e. everybody having a personal truth can’t be truth). I agree that we can’t know all the answers and that we need to rethink some of the traditional ideas of the church. But there is truth that is knowable and available and teachable.

    • Rick Smith


    • theycallmepastorbryan

      Jay, you said “Bell’s emphasis on love as God’s primary attribute ignores that God is also holy and just.”

      But isn’t this exactly what the Gospel of John does in saying that God is love? Yes holiness and justice have to be understood but they are understood through the lens of love. When focusing on this we always get one of two angles – God is primarily a judge, who also loves. Or God is primarily love and out of his love also judges. I think the second is more faithful to how the NT and specifically John portray Jesus.

      I’d challenge your statement that when truth and love collide truth must win. I just finished reading 1 Corinthians 13 and it sure seems like Paul is saying if you do anything good and you don’t do it out of love it’s useless. This isn’t to say that there aren’t times where being loving is being confrontational, but always in love.

  • Felicity

    I agree with everything you’ve written here, Kyle. It doesn’t address the controversy of the book, but it is good stuff. This isn’t the stuff that Bell is getting yelled at about. : ) Which is good. In the middle of these heated discussions, it is good to remember all the ways that we add to one another’s ideas about God, and Bell has definitely done that for me.

    • Kyle Reed

      yup, and that is why I wrote it and wanted to reflect on it some more.

  • victor huckabee

    love will always win… we are not the enemy… we are God’s loved people no matter what culture you were born in… most christians waste there time on trying to condemn people to hell rather than show them true freedom in Jesus… our role is simple and is built for relationship with each other and with God.

    • Kyle Reed

      relationship with God and each other, exactly.
      You are right, it is a lot easier to condemn people then to love…but love wins

  • Jason Vana

    I’m always leery when people say they have all the answers when it comes to following God because, quite frankly, scripture itself says that God’s thoughts are greater than ours. Our human brains can’t even fully process what it means to follow Him.

    Does love win out? I would like to think so. I mean, if we track God’s progress in the past, we see that time and again, love wins out over sin. God’s people sinned, he disciplined them for sure, but then He brings them back to Himself. He even sent His son to pay for our sins, which went contrary to truth at that time in history. Could God still forgive people who never heard the name of Jesus? I sure hope so, or all of us Christians are in for a rude awakening when we get to heaven because it is our task to make sure they hear…and we are majorly sucking it up right now.

    This idea that people are absolutely certain about aspects of God or faith that we really know little about concerns me. Even Jesus’ original disciples had different ideas on topics that we, 2000 years removed from Christ, say we know with certainty what the truth is. They each interpreted scripture and Jesus’ teachings differently. It doesn’t mean they were wrong, just different. In fact, it wasn’t until 300 AD that official Christian doctrine was even decided upon. Up until then, the disciples of the original 11 each had different understandings, different doctrines, different thoughts. It was only when Christianity became a state religion that the need to make everyone believe the same thing came into being.

    Even our idea of hell isn’t the same. Most Christian’s idea of hell isn’t based on the bible. It’s based on Dante’s Inferno. When Jesus talked about hell, he was talking about a physical, natural place that existed on earth right there to describe a spiritual place. It was a metaphor – meaning we don’t really know what it’s like.

    I’m not saying there is no hell (I don’t believe that), I’m not saying I agree with everything Rob says (cause I haven’t read his book, so I don’t know). What I’m saying is that when we think we have all the answers, when we expect someone to answer every question of faith, we have dwindled this God who we can’t even think like, we can’t even fathom, into a manageable idol.

    Will God allow people who commit suicide into heaven? How do we really know?
    Will God let someone into heaven who spent their whole life killing people but had a death bed conversation, but send someone to hell who lived a good life, followed the law that is written on their hearts (since God’s law is written on our hearts) but never heard the name of Jesus?
    That’s a tough one for me to answer. And it should be tough for all of us to answer. Because we aren’t God and we don’t know what He would do.

    Anyway – just some of my thoughts. Definitely not articulated the best and will probably bring on people questioning how mature I am or how much I know my bible, but it’s my faith with God and He and I are tight.

    • Kyle Reed

      and i think it goes to show, there will always be more questions then answers. But I am glad others are processing this with me and the world. Thanks for sharing Jason

  • Erik

    Good thoughts… i think it interesting that most of us that are evangelical American Christian are all about love and truth but we want justice which most of the time equals punishment. Jesus seems to go a pretty different route, he goes the way to of the cross. So i liked what you had to say about that. I think it’s right on.


    I don’t think Loves Wins.
    So NO, love doesn’t win.

    Love doesn’t win because love isn’t competing. Winning isn’t the objective. I follow Bell, listen to him sermons fairly regularly but never liked the LOVE WINS deal. Which he has been kicking around for 5 years at least.
    My response has always been loves doesn’t win, LOVE LOVES. i’ve thought about getting some bumper stickers printed off!

    Another thing, love isn’t an attribute of God’s. God is love he doesn’t have love. All the other things like justice and peace, and truth telling spring from this Love because He is love.

    Just a thought.


    • Kyle Reed

      interesting and I like how you flipped that.
      I think in some ways the word “win” is presented in is in a negative context. But I see what you are saying.

      Ultimately Love stands alone

  • Michael

    I really would like to read the book. I did catch the interview the other night and I still thought he was kinda vague, but I think I understand what he was trying to convey.

    • Kyle Reed

      that is Rob Bell though, very very very vague

  • Brad Nichols

    The only work I have read of Mr. Bell’s is an article he wrote for CNN in February, and I have a blogospheric knowledge of his reputation via Tony Jones and a friend’s facebook note.

    In some people’s hearts and minds, he has become a bit of a Christological and Anti-Christological figure. In Tony Jones’ “What’s Up With Rob Bell?” thread, I found people, quite suggestively, defending him as a prophet of God and others, quite explicitly, condemning him as a prophet of the devil. On both sides of the fence, I found it humorous. So far, I think your thread has remained relatively moderate.

    I find people within contemporary Evangelicalism desperately attracted to Bell’s very artistic style, with good reason. It’s refreshing. It does not leave much of a trace of conventional phraseology or terminology. Hence, expectedly, people don’t exactly know what to do with it.

    I think more conservative Evangelical readers of theologians like John Piper obviously have a hunch against Bell’s reputation, more than Bell himself. I don’t think Piper exactly knows where Rob Bell stands but knows Bell carries every scent of “liberal softiness”. And Bell “is a pastor!” no less, who shouldn’t be “leading the sheep astray” with more “questions than answers”.

    Let me just say that maybe since C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, one side of Anglo-American Evangelicalism has consciously sought a way to get back to the fundamental practicality of Christianity through the creation of new churches or plants or whatever. I call this it’s progressive lay culture. Another side of Anglo-American Evangelicalism has consciously sought a way to return to the fundamental “doctrines” of Christianity, working within the already existent infrastructure. I call this it’s conservative high culture. Both of these sectors of Evangelical culture have talked, yelled, and scratched at nothing but thin air when trying to engage the other, especially when it comes to ambiguous slogans like “Love Wins”. I mostly think it’s a battle of simple temperaments. And it’s caused by a confusion about what the other side is really “all about”.

    I don’t think this “Love Wins” mission is really all that harmful or harmless within Evangelicalism. It is what it is. Because it carries more of an artistic tinge than a doctrinal or theoretical one, it’s only going to cement convictions already present in people’s minds, whether they have more hands and feet in the progressive culture or more hands and feet in the conservative culture. And it’s only going to enliven them. As long as he is an effective writer/poet/prose-writer (whatever), I don’t see him leading anyone on any “new paths”. If you want Rob Bell’s views on justification, for instance, forget it. The way I foresee this guy’s career, it’s not going to happen. He has adopted a very “postmodern” approach, but he is no “postmodern”, if there ever was one. He’s just soaking up the savvy cultures around him. The problematic (not to be confused with “problem”) of our current era is colored by suggestions, incited by questions. And the type of questions Bell poses incite a million and one different suggestions. In the scientific and philosophical branches of academia, we don’t typically take works from guys like Bell into consideration as communicating novel “ideas” or “theories”. We would, rather, treat them like literary pieces. What I mean by this is that Bell’s not pastoring the lay or the high culture. He’s just pastoring each and every subject’s temperaments. That’s what writers and poets and artists do. His emphasis on “love as a primary attribute” (@Jay) is not an exclusive or inclusive or universalistic or liberal or conservative claim. It’s just a way to exhibit the color of an attribute he sees needs to be exhibited. The man is not delivering a doctrine or a theory. He’s tickling the Evangelical culture’s passions and desires. Like Kierkegaard’s style of writing, it isn’t a refined categorical way of treating doctrinal topics. Yes, he poses questions and skepticism about doctrines, but don’t take it too seriously. It only prods the subject in any which direction the subject is going or already considering. Anyone who has never thought about questioning the doctrine of the Trinity before Rob Bell was bound to question that doctrine eventually. He does not present any elaborate system of objective analysis (e.g. contra Karl Barth). With no intention of belittling or bolstering Bell’s significance, I don’t see a threat to conservativism or liberalism within Evangelicalism. He’s just provoking the individual’s subjective nature.

    • Kyle Reed

      wow, Brad glad you weighed in on this.
      You had some great words here and some very interesting points. Especially the idea of asking a question that then provokes millions of other questions.
      I agree, he is provoking the individual’s subjective nature and is ultimately not a threat to the gospel because of his book teaching, or message.

  • Bradley Hofbauer

    Awesome post Kyle. It is nice to recall the sermon instead of conjecture about the book. Fantastic that people posting on this site seem to have some mutual respect for one another as human beings.

    For a (likely) much more compelling look at death, life, life after death, and the life after the life after death (what a list huh?) take a look at N.T. Wright’s book Resurrection of the Son of God. Probably the most compelling and clear work I’ve ever read regarding cultural positions surrounding speculation of what happens after death.

    One final note. I find it interesting that people (including Rob Bell) keep talking about how no one can know what happens when you die because no one has been there. We happen to have a group of books written by a bunch of guys who spent 40 days with a person who died and then was resurrected and probably had some things to say about it. Just saying.

    • Kyle Reed

      ha, i love that you are just sayin because that is a great point. And i will be checking that NT Wright book for sure

  • Jeff Goins

    Fascinating conversation happening here in the comments. Thanks for hosting it, Kyle.