Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chuck Swindoll

The news about Osama bin Laden reminded me, again, of something I heard Chuck Swindoll say on the radio many years ago.

I wrote this letter in response.

"On your March 14, 2003, broadcast of Insight for Living, you said, “May the pain of the everlasting punishment of the terrorists know no bounds and find no relief.”

I find this statement to be highly disturbing on many levels, not the least of which is Jesus’ command to love your enemies.  If Christ can forgive those who are crucifying him, how much more must we forgive those who act against us?

I continue to be shocked by your statement, possibly the most un-Christian thing I’ve ever heard said on the radio.  No matter how we feel about the terrible acts that occurred on September 11, 2001, we must resist the temptation to judge and condemn.  Those acts are God’s alone to perform."

I got a long letter back from someone in Swindoll's ministry, telling me that it's okay to be angry and that even Jesus was angry once. But how does that give Swindoll the right to condemn anyone to hell? Isn't that  God's job?

I suspect similar judgments against Osama bin Laden will be made. But is it ever right for us to wish eternal torment on someone? When Jesus says to love your enemies and to forgive them and to turn the other cheek, I don't recall seeing any qualifiers to those statements. Maybe I'm reading the wrong translations.

I know, I know, I'm guilty of judging Swindoll. The issues we perceive as faults in others are usually issues we are having trouble dealing with in ourselves.

All this makes me appreciate again the words of John Shelby Spong, who advises us to "Love wastefully.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hi, Neil. Just catching up on feeds. (Coming back from way behind.)

I found your post inspiring, because I agree with you completely. It's human nature to want those we hate to burn in hell. But vengeance is God's, not ours.

I also noticed nothing in your piece that amounted to judging Swindoll. You didn't say, for example, he was going to burn in hell for his unholy attitude. You pointed out his error so that he might correct it, and that we might not make the same error. Is that judgmental?

Remember Jonah? He avoided going to Nineveh, because he was afraid that after he told them of all the things they were doing wrong, that they would repent and that God would forgive them. And when that indeed happened, Jonah got mad at God for being so forgiving and changing His mind and deciding not to destroy the Ninevites. Oy.

(We just read the book of Jonah a couple weeks ago, on Yom Kippur, so it immediately came to my mind.)