“Saved” is one of those “church words” I normally avoid. But Jesus said, and our own eyes tell us, that there are people who are on paths of self-destruction, whose choices are toxic to others, as well as themselves. Not just violent or abusive types, but “decent” people who, if you strip away the veneer of goodness, are infected with selfishness.
I was that guy, the young man who used people, including myself. One night, a Jesus freak stopped me as I swayed drunkenly from a friend’s apartment, and remarked, “You don’t know where you’re going, do you?” I pointed at my car, but she replied, “No, I mean eternally.” A month later, I bought a Bible and began reading the words that changed my life forever.
But here’s a question for my fundamentalist friends: If I’d died that night, would I have gone to hell? (We’ll discuss the issue of hell at another time.) Or is it possible that God, knowing who I would be, would have made a place for me? The loving father I’ve come to know since doesn’t care about technicalities: “Oops, this guy hasn’t said the sinner’s prayer so, even though I know what he was becoming, I can’t let him in.”
Is the person who “would be saved,” condemned because he or she died “too early”? Of course, one could argue that God knew they wouldn’t or he would have given them more time. But I think it might go more like this:
God, knowing when a person is “done,” allows what looks to us like an incomplete trajectory to be cut short. It may even be an act of mercy, a recognition that, although that person’s heart is ready, their baggage or biochemistry would cause them and others unnecessary suffering. So time to bring them home. I believe our Father in Heaven is interested in redeeming all who are redeemable, even if they’re not officially “there” yet.
In the fall of 1980, I was on break from a recording session, when a musician friend asked us to pray for someone he’d been speaking with. He’d just flown back into the country and had sat next to a certain iconic rock star. My friend began telling the famously agnostic rocker about Jesus. To his surprise, the star admitted he’d been reading the Bible lately and had found himself inextricably drawn to Jesus. “Yes, I think he may actually be who he says he is!” the rocker said excitedly. So my friend prayed for him, encouraging him, “Don’t stop now!” The rocker promised he wouldn’t, and they departed with a hug.
Less than two months later, John Lennon was dead. Did his Father look into his heart and say, “Time to come home, John”?
I suspect He did.
“The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some understand slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
~2 Peter 3:9
Please read From Tin to Skin, the Addendum to this post.