August 27, 2014

How to answer the “What about the nice, good people out there who never hear about Jesus before they die?” question

Posted in Sunday school/service at 2:35 am by sanguinemare

We were talking about Romans 1:18-23 today in growth group (we would have covered the rest of the chapter tonight, but I kind of accidentally sent the convo spiraling on a tangent ^.^||) and got to the question of well, in light of the fact that part of human nature is to worship, and without God, we will find something else to fill the void… what happens to those people who never hear about Jesus, but who do recognize some higher power through creation, as mentioned in the chapter, and just believe in another deity/religion because that’s what was around them, and they are “good” people?

This is a question I wrestle with sometimes, personally when it comes up in sermons or talks, and also when people ask me about it, because I don’t have a great answer.  There’s the idea of inclusivity vs. exclusivity, where the former says that well, as long as they strove to be upright in all they did, there’s a possibility they can also be saved after death given their circumstances, like at the end of the Chronicles of Narnia series.  The latter however, says that Jesus is the only way anyone can be saved (Acts 4:12 and Romans 10:10-17 were the passages referenced by people in my group to answer this question), and thus the need for urgency of spreading the Gospel, as well as support for the exclusivity principle.

What I thought was a good perspective though, was how someone responded to the question I asked about how to respond to the inevitable follow-up question to the exclusivity idea, which is usually somewhere along the lines of “but that’s not fair – they can’t help that they weren’t told the gospel before they died”.  He said they when he had a similar conversation with a friend, his response was “well, since you do happen to be one of the ones fortunate enough to hear about it, how are you feeling about it right now, in your heart?” Eh, well he probably said it a lot more eloquent than that – I can’t remember exactly how he phrased it but it was less awkward and more impactful-sounding than what I wrote here, haha.  But basically, he said he’d felt that the friend was trying to see if he would say that it was possible those people could be saved without Jesus, which would become self-justification for himself to not need Jesus for salvation.  That was an interesting perspective on that question that I’d never thought about – usually I think people would be asking it because they were frustrated that Christians didn’t have answers and/or because they felt like God was not fair and therefore not worthy to put trust and devotion to.  But after hearing my growth group member’s perspective, I would add to that and say that maybe in asking the question that way, it distances themselves from “other people”, so they can advocate for and steer the conversation focus onto nebulous “others” rather than needing to self-reflect and think about what the gospel means for their lives specifically, or how they feel about it.

Anyways, just thought it was a good way to think about the question and the response.  In discussions like these, the most important thing is to bring the conversation back to Christ, what He did on the cross, and the amazingness of his saving grace.  I tend to forget that and just get lost in philosophical discussions that are all in the realm of the theoretical and unknown, and forget that ultimately, having a relationship with Christ and God is what is the most important.