By Robert Halsey Pine
“But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? And indeed as he says in Hosea, ‘Those who were not my people I will call my people, and her who was not beloved I will call beloved.’ ‘And in the very place where it was said to them, You are not my people, there they shall be called children of the living God.’” (Romans 9:19-33 NRSV).
Our concern for where we fit into the scheme of things in this natural life can be an obstacle to grace. When we worry about wealth or status, our focus is misplaced. This is not to say that we should not strive to be the best that we can be, but when it becomes our only goal in life, we are unbalanced. As Paul said to the Romans, “Has the potter no right over the clay?”
It is God who has made us, and He wants us to be the best we can be just as He made us. Our challenge is remembering that He is the “potter,” and that we should always maintain a right relationship with Him whose idea created us.
In St. Paul’s quote from Hosea, we see that God is not partial when it comes to winning us back to Him. It was always in God’s mind to take back the ones who had strayed. It was through His coming to us in Christ Jesus that He was able to carry out His will, and through Christ’s life and death that we inherited a new life. Maybe it is because God has made it so easy for us that we drift and separate from Him. He has given us the hope of a new life, but if we do not obey Him, sooner or later we will be at His feet, begging for forgiveness and a right relationship with Him. The longer we put it off, the more painful turning to Him will become.
As Paul explains so well, we subtly argue with our creator. We are each a different kind of pottery vessel. We had nothing to do with our creation. The Lord chose the kinds of molecules for each of us and how to assemble them. We say, “I didn’t ask to be born. It’s someone else’s problem if they don’t like the way I do things.” That’s where we get off track. Just as we had no control over our creation (birth), we have no real control over our natural lives. So, we counter our own argument. If we had no control over our birth, what makes us think that we’re in charge of our lives?
That “Free Will” that God gave us is not easy to handle. It puts us in direct communication with the devil. Satan spends all of his time trying to convince us that we are in control. And when we buy in to that line, we do as Adam did and try the forbidden. The good news is that even when we make lots of mistakes, God has told us, “And in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they shall be called children of the living God.”
Robert Halsey Pine was born at Newark, Ohio in 1943. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and completed the program of Theological Education by Extension: Education for Ministry, School of Theology, the University of the South.