THEY NEEDED HAIRCUTS
T. PIERCE BROWN
There was once a man who had four sons who needed haircuts. He had told all of them, even when they were very small and might not remember it, “I am willing to pay for your haircut any time you need one. Whenever you trust in me, are taken down to the barbershop, you will get a hair cut free and will look much better.” His oldest son, Peter, had been rebellious, and did not want to get a haircut, for he thought he looked cool without one. There came a time when Peter realized he needed a haircut, for he wanted to look good for his girl friend. So he asked his father, “What shall I do?” His father said, “Change your rebellious attitude, be taken to the barbershop for a haircut, and not only will you look much better, I will pay for it.” His friend told him, “You should always obey your father, but you don’t really need a haircut, so if you will just go to the barbershop like your father says, you can just get it combed, and you will look better anyway.” He has heard someone reason, “for a haircut” is not a part of the command, for that is merely the result of what you expect to get when you go to the barbershop. So, as long as you go to the barbershop in obedience to your father, he will be pleased. He had also been told that he did not need to understand all of the benefits he might get from going to the barbershop, so it is possible that if he just went to the barbershop, his hair would automatically look better, even if he did not think he needed a haircut. So, he went to the barbershop claiming that he did it in obedience to his father, but he did not go for a haircut. So he did not get it.
The second son, Andrew, had never really been rebellious, so when he was talking to his father and wanted to know what his father thought he should do, his father said, “Get up, get someone to take you to the barbershop and get your hair cut, obeying my wishes.” This son had a friend who said, “He told Peter to change his rebellious attitude. Why did he not tell you to change your mind? You don’t really need a haircut either, and if you will just go to the barbershop to please your father, there is no higher motive than that. Your father will get a haircut for you without your going to the barbershop if you just show that you love him and go on to the barbershop. After all, you can’t cut your own hair, so it is not a part of the command, and someone else will have to do it for you.” However, this son knew that he needed a haircut, and although his father had promised to give it to him when he needed it and wanted it, he realized that he had no right to expect that his father would give it to him until he went to the barbershop for it. So he went and was given a haircut
The third son James was riding along in his BMW and picked up a hitchhiker. The hitch hiker told him he knew his father from away back, and remembered that when the sons were born the father had said that when the time came when his sons realized they needed a haircut that he had said, “Whoever trusts in me and is taken to a barbershop will get his hair cut free, and will look much better.” They came to a certain corner where there was a barbershop and James said, “See, here is a barber shop. What hinders me from going to the barbershop?” If the hitchhiker had been inquisitive, he might have asked, “Why did you ask that question? What do you want to go to a barbershop for?” But he did not, for they both knew why he wanted to go to the barbershop. The most fundamental reason was that he knew that his father wanted him to give him the haircut when he realized he needed one, and changed his mind about the way he looked. But the immediate reason was that he realized he needed a haircut, for whatever values might come from it. So he stopped his BMW and went to the barbershop. In the news report of this, nothing was said about the reason he went, for there are many reasons persons go to barbershops. One is because their parents tell them to; one is to read magazines; one is to visit with friends and talk, and occasionally just to get in out of the heat or cold. But the main reason his father had specified that the boys go to the barbershop was for the purpose of getting a haircut, though he did not suggest that any other motive was wrong. So, he went to the barbershop and when they got through, he went on his way rejoicing. Do you suppose it was because he had gone for the haircut, or do you suppose he just rejoiced because he went to the barbershop because he thought his father wanted him to do so for some unknown reason?
The fourth son, John had been working as a guard in prison for some time. He really looked straggly, for he had not had a haircut in a long time. But one of his prisoners was talking to him one day and reminded him of his father’s love and concern for him. He reminded him of his father’s promise when they were little children. He believed what the prisoner told him, realized he needed a haircut and asked the prisoner to take him to a barbershop. The prisoner told him that it did not need to be an “official” barbershop with a striped pole, but wherever was provided the means to properly cut hair was a sufficient barbershop. So, the same hour of the night he went to the barbershop. The record does not say that he went for the specific purpose of getting his hair cut, so some have assumed that he merely went because his father had indicated that he appreciated people going to the barbershop. His father had not said every time he had mentioned it that they had to go for the purpose of getting a haircut. But they had known from the time they were 2 years old that the primary purpose of going to the barbershop for them was to get a haircut. They learned later that many might go to the barbershop to read a magazine, visit with friends, get out of the weather, or various other things. They also knew that it was logical that if a person went for those things, they did not necessarily get a haircut, for they had never been given a haircut unless they went for one.
If a person can see any possible parallel between the command to be baptized and the command to be taken to the barbershop, and a parallel between the father wanting to provide his children with a haircut and a Father wanting to give his children salvation or remission of sins, it should not be too difficult to see that unless a person realizes he needs a haircut, he is not liable to get one, even if he goes to the barbershop a number of times. The reason is simple: neither remission of sins or getting a haircut is an automatic process for any person who believes the promise of the father and simply wants to please him. He has many “blessings” available, both through going to the barbershop for a haircut and through being baptized for the remission of sins, and he does not have to know about all or any of them. But he does have to know that he needs a haircut and that he will be able to get one free from his father if he goes to the barbershop to get what he needs. One might imagine his father saying to him, “Go to the barbershop for a magazine” but even when he was two years old and had not yet developed into either a philosopher or theologian, he understood that if he went for a magazine, he need not expect to get a haircut.
Salvation is not a matter of accidentally going through some rituals without understanding the meaning and purpose of what Christ did and what we are to do. A person might accidentally take some medicine or vitamins and get rid of beriberi or scurvy without either knowing he had the diseases or believing in the doctor who prescribed the medicine. But baptism does not automatically guarantee remission of sins to a person who simply believes it is there and his father has offered it to him freely any more than going to the barbershop guarantees that he will get a haircut. This has ever been true with any ordinance of God. If a person takes what he calls the Lord’s Supper without knowledge of its nature and purpose, he may well be taking a cracker and grape juice. It only “muddies the water” to ask, “Does he have to know ALL about ALL the values of taking the Lord’s Supper in order for it to be of value?” If it need an answer, the answer is “No.” And if it needs a longer one, it is “No. So what?”
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.
Cookeville, TN. 38501
Phone: (615) 528-3600