When Gentiles, who do not posess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They should that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness… – Romans 2:14-15
But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? – Romans 10:14
As a Quaker, it is my conviction that every person – regardless of their status or circumstance – has access to the inward light of Jesus Christ. I confess with the authors of both Oldand NewTestaments that, “the word is very near to [us]; it is in [our] mouth and in [our hearts] for [us] to observe.” Despite all the hurdles that keep us away from God, the living presence of the Holy Spirit draws near, pressing at our hearts and inviting us into the loving embrace of our Savior.
At the same time, I am also convinced that the good news needs to be preached. Hearing the gospel story – the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus – has the power to transform us, when we receive it in the light of the Spirit. The inspired preaching of modern day prophets
has the power to call us into deeper relationship with God. In my own experience, God has used other people – living and deceased – to shape my walk. I cannot imagine how I ever could have been saved from the death-dealing worldview of the present order without the faithful witness of so many brothers and sisters
So, which is it? Does God directly inspire and draw us into Christ’s Kingdom without the need of human intermediaries? Or does God work through people who are called to the work of proclamation? As is often the case with the things of the Spirit, the truth seems to be found in the midst of paradox. The above passages, both taken from a letter that Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, demonstrate the tension between two truthful answers. Yes, God’s witness in the human heart is sufficient for Christ’s sovereign work of grace. And yes, God uses human beings as instruments of grace, mercy and salvation to the world.
My take-away from this is two-fold. First, I am convinced that God is in control. In a certain sense, God does not “need” us. Our wrong actions – whether out of willful disobedience or simple ignorance – are never able to foul up God’s long-term purpose for the cosmos. This is deeply reassuring for me. No matter how badly I – or humanity in general – screws up, God will find a way to enact his loving purposes.
On the other hand, I am convinced that God’s intention is to use each of us as agents in the holy work of healing the world. How are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? God wants us to share the good news that we have received! God wants to use our lives to proclaim the riches of his glory, through our words and deeds, through our family life and daily work. Amazingly enough, each of us is truly necessary for the work of the Holy Spirit in the world. Though it would seem to us that God does not need us at all, in some mysterious sense we are indispensable!
What is your experience of the way God pours out love and salvation? How have you seen God transforming your life and the lives of those around you? How have you made sense of the paradox of God’s work, which needs no intermediaries but yet is so often accomplished through the faithfulness of particular women and men?