Tag: Interconnectedness

Is the Fate of others more important than your own?

With Christ as my witness, I speak with utter truthfulness. My conscience and the Holy Spirit confirm it. My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them.

Romans 9:1-3 (NLT)

Wow! Would you be willing to be cut off forever for the sake of others? I’m not confident I’d even be brave enough to die for someone, let alone be cut off forever. However, I believe Paul genuinely meant what he wrote as he gave up his life to serve others—he was literally killed doing it.

Jesus also valued the fate of others more than His own. He was cursed and killed by us yet miraculously He was raised. This will lead to the end of Paul’s sorrow and grief as it inaugurated the salvation of all our brothers and sisters! Paul doesn’t need to be forever cursed, indeed Christ says that in the Age to Come, “There will no longer be any curse” (Rev 22:3, cf Rom 5:12-21). 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves

Philippians 2:3 (NIV)

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:10 (NIV)

We are encouraged to value others above ourselves. This doesn’t mean despising ourselves as we are God’s precious children but hopefully it challenges us to be less self-indulgent. I know that’s hard as we are continually bombarded by a culture telling us we must focus on ourselves above all else and that we never have enough.

As Paul said in Romans 9, an even bigger aspect of valuing others is caring about their salvation. We definitely should do that now but what about when others don’t appear to be saved in this life? What does valuing others above ourselves look like in the Age to Come? I’d suggest we will continue inviting them:

Both the Spirit and the bride** say, “Come!”

Let anyone who hears, say, “Come!”

Let the one who is thirsty come. Let the one who desires take the water of life freely.

Revelation 22:17 (CSB)

I love how the invitation grows exponentially as the non-believers hearing and receiving the water of life invite others, who in turn invite even more!

** “the bride” is Christ’s Church, who I believe already have the water of life because when Jesus gives people the “water” now they never thirst again (John 4:14, below).

John4-14 (1207x246)

Jesus reinforces the “never” with the phrase: eis ton aiōna. Thayer’s, NAS, HELPS, et al. describe eis as “denoting entrance into” or “motion into”, ton as “the”, and aiōna as “age”. Those who receive His “water” now won’t be thirsty now, nor going forward into the Age to Come. I say, “Age to Come” because:

  1. We can’t go “into” our current age because we’re already in it.
  2. As the “water” quenching the thirst is directly linked to the life aiōnion—the adjective of aiōna—almost always describes things pertaining to the “Age to Come”.

Paul describes even the idea of his “brothers and sisters” not being saved as “bitter sorrow and unending grief”. His concern about salvation also extended to his Gentile (non-Jewish) “brothers and sisters” as he spent decades seeking to see them saved too:

For so the Lord has commanded [Paul and Barnabas], saying,

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

Acts 13:47, cf Isa 49:6, Rom 11:13, Eph 3:1 (ESV)

Indeed, a strong argument can be made that if anyone wasn’t saved believers would experience “unending grief” because Humanity is so tightly interconnected:

  • Biologically we are all one species—indeed one race—who are all distantly related to one another.

  • Physically we all share this planet, this global village.

  • Temporally we all live in this age together. 

  • Psychologically by agape love—the self-sacrificial love that God shows us and asks us to display. Talbott insightfully points out that in order to fully love someone, we must love those whom they love. Given there are now only six degrees of separation, this love creates a redundantly linked network between everyone.

  • Spiritually Christians believe we all share in the image of God, which is one of the reasons we are all children of God, even those who don’t yet live in the light of that relationship.

Praise be to God that He promises our grief will end when each and every person is made new!

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away. Then the one seated on the throne [Jesus] said, “Look, I am making everything new.”

He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.”

Revelation 21:4-5 (CSB)
Huge Crowd
A crowd of about half a million people (AP Photo/Dominique Mollard)

Is Aylan Kurdi now with Jesus?

I don’t want to be insensitive but when I was reflecting on the gut-wrenching image of the drowned refugee boy lying facedown on the beach, I couldn’t help but wonder “Where is he now? Was his hellish life on earth a mere meaningless foretaste of endless misery in the next, or is he living peacefully with God?” I know that when a loved one of mine has died I’ve been comforted by believing that they will be restored in the new creation and we will eventually be reunited.

For many Christians the answer to these questions is simple, “Did they believe in Jesus?”. In this particular case, Aylan1 probably didn’t – he was most likely a Sunni Muslim2… Most Christians can’t stomach the idea that God would send children to Hell and would suggest that Aylan did make it into Heaven because he hadn’t yet reached the “age of accountability”3 .

I certainly hope Aylan hasn’t gone from hell on earth to a literal Hell. But assuming he was spared, that raises the question, “Will he ever be reunited with his mother and father?”. His mother, Rehen, who sadly also drowned, had reached the “age of accountability”. It’s hard to imagine Aylan ever being truly happy if he’s never reunited with her. In an attempt to solve this dilemma some Christians have suggested that, “Perhaps God obliterates from their minds any knowledge of lost persons so that they experience no pangs of remorse for them.”4 However, as Talbott rightly points out, “In the case of those whose entire family is lost, this would mean, I presume, that God expunges from their minds every memory of parents and other family members; and I doubt that Craig has any conception of how much of a person’s mind that would likely destroy.”5

After all, Humanity is interconnected:

  • Biologically we are all one species, indeed one race6, who are all distantly related to one another.
  • Physically we all share this planet, this global village.
  • By agape love, which is the self-sacrificial love that God shows us and asks us to display. It includes both our mind and our emotions. Talbott insightfully points out that in order to truly love someone, one must love those whom they love7. This creates a strong network of links between everyone.
  • Spiritually, Christians also believe we all share in the image of God, that our Creator breathes His life into us8. Some would go as far as saying that we are all children of God, even those who don’t live in the light of that relationship (still wallowing in the Prodigal son’s “pigpen”9).

Considering these things, I think our response to anyone in hellish circumstances, should be primarily compassionate (taking priority over our concerns about our economy, culture, etc.). Christians in particular, ought to imitate our Father in showing empathy and giving them refuge10. I think this should apply both now (e.g. with refugees fleeing war and persecution, and those locked up in indefinite detention centres) and in the age to come (otherwise I’d suggest that if Hell never ceased, it is the ultimate “indefinite detention centre” – a depressing thought indeed). As we open our hearts and doors11, we anticipate the day when the gates of the New Jerusalem (heaven come to earth, God dwelling with Humanity) will never be shut12.

Open Gates

1. Media initially reported his name was “Aylan”, however his aunt recently said his original, Kurdish name was Alan.
2. According to Wikipedia the majority of Kurds are Sunni Muslims and both his mother and father have Arabic names, Rehen and Abdullah, and his uncle’s name is Mohammed.
3. Most Christians believe God has mercy on all people under a certain age https://bible.org/question/what-does-bible-say-about-age-accountability.
4. William Lane Craig’s http://www.reasonablefaith.org/talbotts-universalism.
5. Thomas Talbott’s The Inescapable Love of God (1999, revised 2015), p180. Also available on p13 of http://www.thomastalbott.com/pdf/Chapter11.pdf.
6. “Today the vast majority of those involved in research on human variation would agree that biological races do not exist among humans.” http://www.newsweek.com/there-no-such-thing-race-283123
7. Thomas Talbott’s The Inescapable Love of God (1999, revised 2015), p126. 
8. Genesis 2:7
9. Luke 15:11-32
10. A helpful blog post on how God’s response to refugees should shape our own.
11. Practical ways we can help refugees
12. Revelation 21:25