First, let’s take a look at God’s giving of the Law in Exodus 21:
“But the slave may declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.” (Exodus 21:5 NLT)
This is a slave who is choosing to remain in that position by choice, a choice made out of love and commitment instead of bondage.
Many New Testament writers, such as Paul and James, use this this terminology to introduce themselves:
“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” (Romans 1:1 NASB)
“James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…” (James 1:1 NASB)
So, what are they saying? They are identifying themselves as slaves to the Gospel and to the example of Christ, not out of bondage, but out of choice and devotion.
So, why the earring? Nothing says that Paul or James pierced their ear for this reason, but, for me, it is an outward symbol (albeit from the Old Testament) to identify myself as a bond-servant of Christ Jesus.
“Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living.” (Romans 6:18 NLT)
Christ sufferedt for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. So he went and preached to the spirits in prison — those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood.
~1 Peter 3:18-20~
I had a lot of questions about this passage as I read it last night. I would love to hear your thoughts on each of them.
- Christ died for the sins of all people, right? But we also argue that those who have not heard Christ’s message go to hell. This passage tells us that he even redeemed the sins of those who died before he came, specifically those who died in the great flood. God knew that he would send Christ as an atonement, even thousands of years before, when all the people of the earth were wicked and were destroyed, but had not been given a chance to be redeemed. This tells me that God is not ultimately a God of wrath and retribution, but that even those who were destroyed because of their wickedness were given a chance to hear the story of salvation and accept God.
- So, what implications does this have now? What does this mean for people all over the world who have never been given the opportunity to hear the Gospel? Do they automatically go to hell because they didn’t hear about and believe in Christ? This seems unreasonable from the perspective of Grace. So, do they get the chance to hear the Good News even in the afterlife?
- How does this apply to us, then, who are called to take the Gospel into all the world? Should we just stop because those who haven’t heard will be okay, anyway? What about people of other faiths? Do you have to literally and physically reject Jesus as the Messiah in order to automatically go to hell?
I’m not necessarily trying to stir up a huge debate here, but these are questions that really need to be asked. In some instances, I’m really playing “devil’s advocate” (for lack of a better term), but I am intently interested in all the perspectives.
This is a prevalent notion throughout America and the world right now, especially since the release of Rob Bell’s new book and all the controversy surrounding it (just do a google search and you’ll find out). This isn’t meant to be a commentary on that particular subject, but it does fit closely with the same kinds of questions he is asking.
So, I’m not asking for answers. I’m asking for your thoughts. I want to hear what questions you have. I want to open a dialogue, not a debate. Because it’s not about you or me being right or wrong, ignorant or brilliant, holy or heretical. It’s about us, wrestling with the Truths of the Kingdom here on earth.
Here’s one simple thought to summarize my week:
Wllingness to fail is not an allowance of sin, but rather a determination to learn and grow from the experiences that result in and from our inevitable sin.
What are your thoughts?