Jesus says that whatever else happens, Christians will never, ever have a bad hair day. They may have limbs lopped from their bodies and they may be crucified just as he was, but – blessed assurance! – not a single hair on their heads will come to harm. Isn’t that fabulous?
Here’s how he puts it:
…they will arrest you and persecute you; they will hand you over to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors because of my name… You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your souls. (Luke 21.12, 16-18)
Of course, this particular part of Jesus’ script was written long after he died (wasn’t it all) when there was some mild persecution of Christians under the emperor Nero. Jesus’ promise was designed to be of comfort to those in trouble because of their faith. It turns out to be cold comfort, however, and a blatant lie. Jesus’ own brother and leader of the church in Jerusalem, James was tortured and executed round about 62CE, as were several of the disciples and the self-appointed apostle, Paul (circa 64CE). And we can be fairly certain that whatever hair they had on their heads ‘perished’ when they did.
Perhaps Jesus suffered from male pattern baldness, which might explain his fixation with hair, because as well as promising that not a single hair on believers’ heads would perish, he’s made to declare, equally improbably, in Matthew 10.30 that all the hairs on the disciples’ heads are numbered.
God really does have too much time on his hands. You’d have thought he could use it to prevent the deaths of the 25,000 African children who die each day because of malnutrition and the innumerable diseases he’s seen fit to create. But no. He counts hairs instead.
Consequently and predictably, Christians have tied themselves in tangled knots trying to explain Jesus’ bizarre claim that not a single, numbered hair would be lost. What he meant, some of them tell us, is that the souls of persecuted believers will be unharmed, safe in God’s care, whatever they endure. But hair, it has to be said, is an unlikely metaphor for the soul, and isn’t one that the gospel writers or other New Testament authors use anywhere else.
So maybe, Christians argue, because hair is a part of the physical body, Jesus means it to stand for the whole body, and yes, this might be put to death, but it will live again as a resurrected super-body. God will then reinstate even the hair of those who have died for Jesus’ sake. Which means there are going to be a lot of hirsute people in the Kingdom when all the hair they’ve ever possessed is returned, post-mortem, to their heads. This is what Jesus promises.
Paul, though, says in 1 Corinthians 11.14 that long hair degrades a man, while Augustine argues that, come the resurrection, any excess hair will be incorporated somewhere in the body (extra pubes maybe?). Perhaps, though, God doesn’t intend acting as divine hair-restorer at all, but plans to keep all the hair ever lost, alive and vibrant, in a special heavenly hair-museum.
Or maybe Jesus’ guarantee that even Christians’ hair will be saved is, like the rest of his promises, nothing more than total and utter BS.