Last Tuesday, President Barak Obama – in reference to an anti-Islamic video produced in the United States – told the United Nations General Assembly:
… the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression; it is more speech – the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.
Now, I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech. We recognize that.
He recognizes that “not all countries … share this particular understanding …”? Now there’s an understatement. He could have added that not everyone in America shares it either. It’s not the understatement that struck me though. It’s how much the President’s comment reminds me of something Paul said a couple thousand years ago.
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:14.)
I am a citizen of the United States by birth, and belong to the kingdom of God by rebirth. A lot of the things I take for granted here in the States not only don’t exist abroad, they’re not even valued. A lot of the blessings I receive in God’s kingdom are likewise not valued by those outside the kingdom. The reasons are similar in some ways.
People come to my courthouse for jury duty all the time, and occasionally I am privileged to speak to them about jury service. One thing I point out is that not many countries have a jury system, and that the governments in those other countries never call on regular folks to make a judicial decision. Yet here we do that, twelve people making the decision that becomes an enforceable order of the judicial branch.
Then I point out that in some countries the people not only don’t get to do this but they cannot even conceive of it. Many people live in countries where the government doesn’t ask the people what it should do; the government tells the people what they have to do. If we tried to explain the jury system to a person on the street in one of those places, some of them wouldn’t even be able to wrap their minds around it. Here in the States, though, we get the basic concept even if we’ve never been on jury duty; we get it because this is where we live.
I think that’s how it is with the kingdom of God. We get the basic concept because we have the Spirit, who lives in us. Those outside the kingdom don’t get it, because they don’t have the Spirit. To paraphrase:
Now I know that not all people in this world share this particular understanding of what it means to belong to God. I recognize that.
But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t talk about it with those people. Like the President discussing the value of protecting free speech even though his listeners may not agree with it, we have something to say to those who do not yet belong to God even if they won’t get the truth of what we say.
Because it’s not up to us to make them understand. It’s up to us to tell them the good news:
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. (1 Timothy 1:15.)
How do the people in your life respond to the fact that you belong to the kingdom of God?
What impact does your position in God’s kingdom have on the people around you?