There are times in my life when I look at people who are making choices that are radically opposite what I would make and think, “How in the world could you come up with that?!? Why would you even think that would be good (or even acceptable) to anyone?”
Then, I have to take a step back and realize that I do not have all the answers in life, nor am I the final arbiter of what is right and wrong.
Yet there are some issues in this world that I know beyond the shadow of a doubt are right and wrong. For Christians, the Bible gives us guidelines on what God deems right and wrong, appropriate and inappropriate. There can be differences of opinion on how to read what is right and wrong, but it is there. No one can argue that God does not specify that some actions are simply wrong, and others are fundamentally right.
Where Christians get in trouble, though, is when they expect people outside of the Church, people who are not Christians, to readily understand the truths contained within the Bible, Christians’ holy scriptures. In fact, Paul has something to say about this in the passage today:
It isn’t a wisdom that comes from the present day or from today’s leaders who are being reduced to nothing. We talk about God’s wisdom, which has been hidden as a secret. God determined this wisdom in advance, before time began, for our glory. It is a wisdom that none of the present-day rulers have understood, because if they did understand it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory!
The idea here is that without the Holy Spirit in our lives, we will never understand who God is, what God desires, or the kind of life God calls us to live. More simply, without the Holy Spirit, no one can really understand the Bible–let alone try to put its precepts into practice in their lives.
Paul’s immediate context is the Jewish leaders who handed Christ over to Pilate. Had they actually understood the Scriptures, they would not have done so. The implication is clear. We cannot assume that just because people can read, or are even highly educated, that they will understand (what to Christians are) the self-evident truths of the Bible.
It is the Holy Spirit that gives people the possibility of understanding and accepting the Bible and all that is within it. People can receive this insight and ability from God by reaching out with whatever amount of faith they may have in a sincere desire to understand from God’s point of view. God will take whatever we can offer. If it is the size of a mustard seed, then God will use that amount of faith and grow it.
But for those who have no desire to know God, or no desire to understand the Bible as God’s special revelation to humanity, they will never understand the Bible. Sure, they may be able to read it. They may even be able to read it in its original languages and analyze its history, transmission, organization, and any other aspect of the Bible, but they will never truly understand and comprehend its meaning.
Without God in our lives, it is impossible to understand God’s revelation. The Good News is that God offers himself to all of us. The catch is that we have to be willing to accept that offer.