I already know that some people who read what I am going to write here will claim I’m a univeralist. But that will be based on their attempt to read my “real thoughts” (as they attempt to do with Rob Bell) contrary to what I specifically say. I am not a universalist. Anyone who says otherwise is a liar.
HOWEVER…What I would like to ask people who get so worked up about universalism is this: What difference would it make in your life if suddenly God revealed to you in a way you couldn’t deny that he is going to save everyone?
I have posed that question to students for almost 30 years and one response has been common and very enlightening. Many say “I would think it unfair for God to save people who didn’t have to give up all that I have given up to be saved and I would stop witnessing and supporting missions and striving to live a holy life.” (Of course, this is a paraphrase. No one student ever said it exactly that way; it’s more of a composite of common comments and class consensuses out of discussion of the question.)
What does this reveal? It suggests to me that people who respond that way have not yet experienced the joy of knowing Jesus Christ and the abundant life he gives. I’m not saying they’re not saved; I’m just saying they are missing out on an important aspect of being saved.Is salvation drudgery? Would God be any more unfair to save everyone than to save me? If you know the joy and peace that comes from being saved and having a relationship with Jesus, why wouldn’t you want everyone to know about that now–in this life?
This very common response (or set of responses) makes me wonder very seriously if American evangelicals have largely missed the boat when it comes to experiencing the fullness of God’s saving grace and mercy? Have we, after all, fallen into thinking of salvation as fire insurance? Is salvation just forgiveness and not also transformation? Are evangelism and missions just to get as many as possible into the “life boat” before judgment comes? Don’t we “love to tell the story” of Jesus and his love just because it’s true and wondefully sweet?
I hope, and pray, that IF I were somehow convinced of the truth of universal salvation (ultimate reconciliation) (something I don’t expect), it wouldn’t make any difference in how I live my life or how I proclaim the goodness of God and his salvation.