Sometimes a passage from the Bible goes around in my thoughts until God sheds some more light on the issue. I just got an illustration for a possible meaning of something Jesus said, which was part of my message this morning in Cologne South corps.
”And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you for ever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”
John 14:16-17 NIVUK
In a democratic society we want to have equality between people. It is a basic Christian conviction that every human being, by whatever religion or race or sex, is equally important. So, it puzzles me a bit when Jesus says that people in “the world” can’t accept the Holy Spirit, can not see or know God’s Spirit. They just can’t do it.
Jesus states that as a simple fact. How shall I understand that? People in “the world” can be very spiritual in various ways – but still not understand or know the Holy Spirit. They are equally loved by God, but that is not the same as responding to that love by receiving God’s Holy Spirit.
The picture that came to my mind this evening was the difference between tropical fruit trees and fruit trees of Northern Europe. In a tropical climate it is difficult to grow a normal apple tree. I heard for example that in Indonesia there is only one small area on one island where apples grow. On the other hand you will have trouble growing bananas or avocado in your garden in Northern Europe. The cold winter will kill the plants.
So what I think Jesus says is, that in order to have the Holy Spirit live in you (and to bear the fruit of the Spirit) you need to be born again through faith in Jesus. You, and I for that matter, need to live in the climate of God’s kingdom.
So, when Jesus makes a distinction between “the world” and his followers, it has nothing to do with discrimination. It is not about categorising people as first and second class humans. We are all equally important to him. And – we can all belong to him. But, we have to use our free will to choose to get to know him as our savior .
And when we do, we will learn that the only qualification is our abandonement of self-salvation.