The other Archer agrees: Degrees of Reward
Baron Archer of Weston-super-Mare is most commonly known as the über-successful novelist, Jeffery Archer. Not only is Lord Archer a member of the landed gentry, a former Minister of Parliament, and a bestselling author, he is also most recently an ex-convict.
In 2001 Archer was sent to Her Majesty’s prison for perjury in court and released two years later on parole. Instead of slinking into disgraced silence, Lord Archer emerged with three prison diaries and a slew of new novels to do with courtroom and jailhouse drama. But besides making millions out of being incarcerated, he also developed a new passion for prison reform. Putting his former political skills back to work he began lobbying for his three point plan to improve the British penal system. His plan revolves around degrees of reward and punishment.
1) The inmate education program should receive the same remuneration as manual labor positions. Since 60% of convicts in his prison were illiterate, the education program may have proven appealing.
But the inmates were offered 12 pounds a day to work in the laundries and kitchens, but only half that to get an education. Even illiterate cons can do enough math to know peeling a spud pays better than learning to spell the word “spud.”
2) Convicts should be categorized so that those who have committed minor first-time offenses (say shoplifting) are not sent to the same level of prison for career criminals and violent offenders. An unsuccessful shoplifter now leaves jail two years later with an education in how to steal cars, rob banks, and murder.
3) That the punishment for smoking marijuana should be less severe than for heroin. This is a fascinating insight. Marijuana is a less serious addiction than the life-threatening, all-consuming heroine addiction, but Marijuana can be detected in the body for 28 days. Heroine can be flushed out the system in 24 hours. In Britain the penalty for using any drug is the same number of years onto your sentence.
This is to ensure that the government cannot be seen to condone drug abuse by giving lighter sentences for some drugs. But the upshot is that pot addicts in prison quickly switch to deadly heroin so that the chance of being caught in a drug test is less likely.
In the eloquent writer’s own words: “This is nuts and should be dealt with. Plain bonkers, and the home secretary should see this.”
Christians understand that salvation from condemnation is an equally glorious, free gift of grace for all believers, irrespective of when they repent. Our Lord taught this explicitly in the parable of the generous landowner in Matthew 20. The thief on the cross—saved for a few hours—will enjoy the same salvation from his sins and their consequences as the Apostle John who served Christ for decades. There are no degrees of forgiveness. It is reassuringly true that “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1). And there is breathtaking comfort in the promise that all our sins have been paid for in full and nailed to the cross. But, does that mean our behavior, words, and motives have no bearing on our eternity whatsoever?
Consider these four (of many) sample warnings, directed a believers:
1 Cor 3:12 “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. 14 If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”
Note that the person who “suffers loss” due to his faulty foundation is not an unbeliever, but one who “will be saved.” Paul is talking about believers who experience a loss of some sort due what they did in life.
1 Cor 4:5 “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time [on other believers], before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.”
This passage refers to a time after the Lord comes when motives of believers will result in the corresponding commendation from Jesus (reminiscent of the “good and faithful servant” commendation in parable of the talents in Matt 25).
2 Cor 5:10 For we [Paul includes himself with all believers] must all appear before the judgment seat [bēma] of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil [phaulon, a word meaning futile/worthless].
Here believers are warned that they will receive what is due to them, according to their deeds in this life, whether they are good, profitable deeds or futile, worthless deeds.
1 Pet 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
Peter is referring to the discipline of God in this life, as the writer of Hebrews reiterates in Heb 12:7 “It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?”
Believers are not exempt from accountability in this life or the next. There’s a book about this topic available on Amazon
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