"For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God" - Romans 1:20
A very good friend of mine was born in Africa where his parents were missionaries most of their lives. His father was among the first to work with the Bassari tribe and to his surprise, he discovered that the Bassari already had a very vague idea of Jesus even though no one had ever preached the Gospel to them. Certainly they did not know His name, that He lived in the Middle East 2000 years ago or that He died on the cross. But what they did know is that they were sinners, they could not save themselves and that God had provided a means for their salvation. In response, they had surrendered to God and accepted His plan for them. All of this happened long before the missionaries arrived. When presented with the Gospel of the New Testament, they accepted it with open arms and welcomed the opportunity to learn the details about their savior, with whom they were already acquainted in their heart.
God speaks to each and every one of us in different ways. He reveals Himself in the wonder and beauty of creation. He speaks to us through the voice of friends and family who witness to us and offer their testimony. He can speak through the words of preachers on television and radio. He can speak directly to our heart while we sit quietly under a clear sky during a warm summer night. He speaks to us in the love we feel for our husbands, wives and children.
Each and every one of us are born knowing the basic truths of the Gospel, but the longer we ignore it, the more faint it becomes. The chaos of the world will drown it out. By the time we are well into our twenties, if we have ignored the voice of God then it will take a great intervention by friends, family or the Holy Spirit to bring us back. Sadly, if we continue to ignore God despite all the exterior signs and interior desires, we will be lost. He will continue to speak to us quietly and gently but He will not force himself upon us. We must come to Him.
Am I suggesting that the Bassari were saved before the missionaries arrived? Only Jesus knows, but my guess is that they were. We know that Jesus is the only way to be saved, but to what extent do we need to know the details before we can accept Him into our heart? Do we need to know His name? Do we need to know that He was crucified by Roman soldiers on a cross on Mount Calvary? Or, more likely, is it sufficient to know that we are sinners who need God to save us and that we must place our complete trust and faith in Him, though we may not know His name? Children do this implicitly until we teach them differently or until they reach an age where they can consciously make the decision to turn away from Him.
So what becomes of those who never hear the Gospel? There can be no such thing. Although there are those who have never heard the name of Jesus Christ, there isn't a person alive who has not seen the evidence and felt the call of the living God to repent and come to Him. There are, unfortunately, millions who have ignored the call or have followed it into mysticism, paganism or outright rebellion. If they do not repent and give their lives to God then they will be lost. Right now, they are living for themselves, not for God. These people desperately need to face the truth of the Gospel and surrender their lives to the God who created them. It is the job of Christians everywhere to lead them to this choice.
God is far more loving, fair, trustworthy and compassionate than you or I could ever be. He loves His people and does not want to lose a single one. With this in mind, do you not think that we can trust God with this important judgment? God is perfect and His plan of salvation is the best plan there could ever be. We need not worry that people are being punished or lost unfairly.
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