This is a difficult saying for me. I see it and it is clear to understand, but it is not easy for me to take on and digest…primarily because I don’t really want to. I want to believe, instead, that each person can simply come to God once they hear.
Of course, I have no idea who God will call and who he won’t, or whether he will call someone now while I am speaking to them or will call them in the future when someone else is speaking to that same person that I have spoken to.
But Jesus was clear when he spoke to the Jews as they challenged him. Jesus explained precisely why they didn’t believe:
Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”John 8:45-47
Interestingly, at the beginning of this exchange, in verse 31, it says that Jesus is actually speaking to those who had believed him. It seems that Jesus is taking a next step to even challenge their belief, to move them beyond their religiosity through their Judaism, beyond their faith in being part of God’s people, the Jews, and instead putting their faith in him.
Challenging them in this way reveals that they haven’t actually changed their minds to fully believing what Jesus is telling them, but instead they prefer to hang on to what they have relied upon from the past, that they are descendants of Abraham, and that is what allows them to be accepted by God.
Not true, says Jesus.
And this is the part that rings so true to me and why I wanted to highlight these verses today. So many people have such a hard time believing that what they are doing, even religiously, will not make them righteous before God. Muslims believe that if they go to the mosque 5 times to pray each day (even though many of them actually do not), or give money to other people, or fast during Ramadan, that God will see them as righteous.
Many of the Catholics that I meet seem to believe that if they are “good people”, or they follow the religious rules, or go to the religious festivals, then God will see them as righteous.
And yet Jesus is standing in the square telling them that he is the light of the world and they can’t hear him. It is as if they are deaf to what Jesus is saying. Their ears and hearts are closed, and what is more, they argue in the other direction, explaining why what Jesus is saying must be wrong.
I so much wish that it wasn’t the case, but I have to say that I feel at times that this sentence is true with many of these people:
The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.
I pray that God will be patient, that he will be merciful, that he will give grace, that each will be saved. I pray that many will be able to hear because they belong to God.