The students filed into the classroom and quickly settled into their chairs. After the opening prayer, Nannygranne began the conversation. “Where are we starting this morning, class?”
Lydia raised her hand, speaking, “We are supposed to talk about whether it’s not fair for people who never hear about Jesus to go to hell.”
“Thank you, Lydia. Let’s get right to it.” Smiling, Nannygranne turned to the chalkboard and made notes as she spoke. “Let’s begin with things we know are certain. We know that God loves the whole world, Jesus died for the whole world, and Jesus said to go into the whole world and help people know Him because He is the world’s only Savior. Does everyone understand these four truths so far?” 1
Heads nodded around the room, so their teacher continued. “We have to remember that God does not answer every question we might ask, but He is God and we are not so we should trust Him. But God maybe leaves us clues about how He’s going to handle people who don’t know better.”
She wrote Corinthians 3:13-15 on the board. “I’d like you all to find this verse so we can read it together. The Apostle Paul is writing to Christians in the town of Corinth. Some of them aren’t living their Christian lives carefully. He tells them that when Jesus returns, some of them will be barely saved. Others will receive a reward for the better lives they lived. Who will read the verse for us?
Danny called out, “I will.” “Their work will be shown for what it is because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”2
“Thank you, Danny.” Then she wrote Luke 12:47-48 on the board as she explained, “Now in this passage, we’ll read what Jesus says about people much like our Jungle friends. Some will know what the right thing is to do and won’t do it. Others will do wrong things because they don’t know the right things to do. Jesus explained that those people wouldn’t receive the same punishment as much as those who knew better. Who will read Luke 12:47-48?”
This time Julie raised her hand. “That servant knew what his master wanted him to do. But he did not make himself ready or try to do what his master wanted. So that servant will be punished very much! But what about the servant who does not know what his master wants? He also does things that deserve punishment. But he will get less punishment than the servant who knew what he should do.”3
“Class, look at those verse sagain. What do you think God will do about people who aren’t obedient to Him?”
Libby spoke cautiously, “Does that mean that if people don’t know what God wants them to do, then they won’t be punished as much in hell as people who know better?”
Nannygranne looked around the room. “What do you think? Who agrees with Libby?”
Typical of tweens, students glanced around the room, wondering what the response would be. Gradually every hand raised in agreement.
“Well, this is one of those biblical teachings that isn’t as obvious as God’s love but, Libby, I agree with you, too. The two passages we’ve looked at seem to hint that there may be extra blessings in Heaven for some and extra punishment in hell for some. But only God can decide about those matters.”
Nannygranne took a seat at her desk, turned the pages of her Bible, and read, “All have sinned and are not good enough to share God’s divine greatness.” and that “When people sin, they earn what sin pays—death. But God gives his people a free gift—eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”4 She concluded her reading with Jesus’ final directive: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Libby raised her hand hesitantly, seeming to doubt whether or not she should speak. “Nannygranne, if they won’t get punished very much if they don’t know better, wouldn’t it be better just to leave them alone?”
Nannygranne had expected this line of reasoning and would have asked the question if Libby hadn’t. “Libby, your thought is very logical from our point of view. Would you mind if we take a minute and look at that question from God’s point of view?”
Libby’s head nodded slightly, but her expression was curious.
“We’ve been asking if God is fair today knowing He must be because He is God. We’ve also read some clues as to how His fairness might look. But if we just left the lost alone, are we being fair?”
She waited and looked at the faces focused on hers. Then she rose and erased the blackboard to start another list. She wrote “IS IT FAIR?” followed by “#1-IS IT FAIR THAT GOD LOVES THEM , LOVES THEM SO MUCH HE LET JESUS DIE FOR THEM?” She turned to the class. “How would you feel if you were a parent and someone decided to stop looking for your lost child?”
She resume writing on the board. “#2 – IS IT FAIR FOR THEM NEVER TO KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE A CHILD OF GOD?” “You know, boys and girls, becoming a Christian is not meant to be fire insurance for hell. Being a part of God’s Kingdom right now, having the Holy Spirit live in us, being part of the family of the Creator of the Universe, gets more and more amazing the longer we know Jesus. Is it fair for them to miss out on that?”
Then she wrote: “#3 – IF WE KNOW THE RIGHT THING TO DO AND REFUSE TO DO IT, WHAT WOULD BE FAIR FOR GOD TO DO ABOUT US?” Each of us can answer this question for himself or herself.”
Returning to her desk, she closed her Bible, folded her hands, and asked, “What are we all thinking now?”
Concluded next week.
1 Plain Truths of God: Love, sacrifice, go: John 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:15; Luke 19:10; Acts 4:12; Rom 3:23; Rom 6:23; Matt 28:19-20; Acts 1:8
2 Differing rewards in Heaven: 1 Cor 3:13-15; Matt 5:11-12; Matthew 10:41-42; Luke 6:23, 35; 1 Cor. 3:8;
3 Levels of punishment in hell: Matt 10:14-15; Matt 11:21-24; Luke 12:47-48; Rev. 18:6
4 Salvation is a gift. Actions are a response to the gift. (i.e belief, repentence, confession, and baptism are like endorsing a check for “salvation”; such actions do not earn the gift…but rather accept the gift. Without endorsement, the gift is unaccepted). Rom 3:23; Luke 17:10; Rom 6:23; Rom 5:15-18; Rom 11:29; 2 Cor 9:15; Eph 2:8; Heb 6:4; Rom 6:1-8; Rom 10:9; Rom 2:4.