The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, (John 1:9-12)
When I was 9 years old I lived just south of Chicago, at 14910 South Kenton St., in Midlothian, Illinois. Somehow all the other kids on that street rejected me. They unanimously decided to exclude me from all their games and group activities. It was pretty bad. The level of hostility was pretty high. One time they even staged a demonstration on the sidewalk in front of my house. I’ll never forget it. They had picket signs and everything. They marched back and forth in front of the house yelling, “We want Honey Bear (camp), not Kurt Bennett!” (Kind of a weird slogan for a protest, I know. But they were grade schoolers after all.) As a nine year old that was disturbing on a level that’s hard to describe. But I probably deserved it. I was a pretty obnoxious kid at 9 years old.
Jesus was rejected too. But he wasn’t obnoxious. Jesus was nothing but loving and kind and compassionate and holy. Jesus was full of grace. But in spite of his pure and perfect nature, the true light, which gives light to everyone, the One who came into the world, the one through whom the world was made, he was rejected. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” Jesus was rejected by the vast majority of people who knew him.
Last post I mentioned God’s enthusiasm for our free will. I want to talk about that and how it relates to people who reject Jesus. But first a word about Blaise Pascal.
Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician and physicist who laid the foundation for the modern theory of probability. His father appointed himself as his educator and, curiously, decided to omit mathematics from Blaise’s curriculum, so Blaise could focus on the languages (especially Latin and Greek) and the classics. This had the opposite effect from that which was desired and young Blaise found all things mathematical to be irresistible. At 18 Blaise Pascal invented one of the first calculators. At 24 he began his work called The Generation of Conic Sections. He was only 31 when he discovered the fixed likelihood of seemingly random events based on probability. Nicklaus Wirth invented a computer language in the 70s and insisted on naming it after Pascal, in honor of Pascal’s calculator which was one of the very earliest forms of the modern computer. Blaise Pascal died of cancer at the age of 39. (biography.com)
Pascal was a genius. He was also a Christian. And I think you’ll see that he had an important insight about why God allowed (and allows) Jesus to suffer such rejection.
How I Would Do It If I Were God
So why did God do it the way He did it? Why did He send His Son, “the exact representation of His nature,” into the world as a baby? (Hebrews 1:3) This One through whom all things were made, why did He make him so vulnerable? And why did He allow people to reject Jesus the way they did? And why does He allow people to reject Jesus the way they do today? Why doesn’t he just show Himself, to each and every generation? He’s God right? So He certainly could show Himself. Or He could at least send an angel to each generation. Or maybe He could carve out instructions for us on some monolithic rock in a desert somewhere, in a way that no human ever could–so we would know, for sure.
Any of those methods might be how I would do it.
I hear atheists and theists say similar things. Why didn’t God write an About page in the form of a constellation telling us about Himself? Why wouldn’t he offer proof of His existence? But God didn’t do it that way, and as you’ll see, Pascal offers insight into the reason why God did things the way He did.
Why Doesn’t God Prevent Us From Rejecting His Son
It puzzles me, but God seems to be enthralled with the idea of free will. He’s enthralled with it way beyond me or anyone I know. I’m the kind of guy who likes to back up a phone call with an email. I like to arrange things so they can’t miss. I never would have put the tree of good and evil in the garden. I would have explained to Cain ahead of time that he was forbidden to harm Abel. I would have taken Samson on a retreat until he cooled off on Delilah. I would have made sure Bathsheba’s bathtub wasn’t in view of David’s castle.
But God didn’t do it that way. God set things up exactly the opposite. God always ensures a choice. He arranges things so we have freedom. God sets things up to ensure our free will. He’s completely committed to this idea of free will, so much so that this statement by Pascal seems to nail it. God arranged the universe so that:
“In faith there is enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.”
The True Light Which Gives Light To Everyone
In the scripture quoted at the top of this post, John writes that Jesus is the true light which gives light to everyone. God gives that light to every single one of us, but it’s up to us whether or not to receive it. Most of the people who knew Jesus chose to reject him. A minority chose to receive him and he gave them “the right to become children of God.”
You might be on the fence right now. Maybe you’re wondering whether or not Jesus is real. If you are, it’s because God wants it that way. He wants you to have a choice. In my experience those who seek after God’s light are rewarded with more of God’s light. And those who reject him find darkness. I think at some level you recognize that’s true. God tells us directly that, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)
Pascal is right. We all have a choice. And God wants it that way. He’s provided enough light for those who want to believe and enough shadows to blind those who don’t.
Seek after the light. Give yourself to Him. Accept Jesus, not as a Savior, not even as the Savior, but accept Jesus as your Savior. Pray to Him. Confess to Him that you have sin in your life, as we all do. Confess to Him your need for the redemptive work His Son did for you on the cross. Receive Jesus the Light into your heart and your life.
He gave His light, His Son Jesus, to everyone.
You have but to receive it.
You might also like Doubt, Faith, and Reason: Genuine Seeker (Part 3)
Questions? Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Image via Tehmina Goskar – Creative Commons]