There’s a similar refrain I hear from the lips of many Christians these days, whenever the subject turns to the growing dumpster fire in DC and the resulting unrest in our nation:
“Relax, God is in control.”
The words are designed as a conversation stopper; an iron-clad, sanctified mic drop, exempting them from further discussion on the matters at hand and supposedly assuaging all my fears in four simple words.
The only problem is—it’s not true, at least not in the way they might like it to be right now.
In these days, with so much that is untenable and threatening and worrisome, tossing off a quick “God’s got it” is a subtle bit of heresy:
It imagines that God engineers election outcomes the same way as football scores.
It exonerates people from any culpability for a vote they perhaps now feel was regrettable.
It nullifies any concept of personal free will, by giving God ultimate veto power over us.
It excuses inaction in the face of other people’s present suffering.
In matters of injustice and suffering and evil—it essentially passes the buck to God.
But the story of the Scriptures, is one of this same God, granting Humanity the power over their choices; giving them the ability to be co-creators in this world by the decisions they make. Though God is all-powerful, God does not exercise that power to coerce us. We are not mindless robots simply performing the tasks we are pre-programmed to—we are fully responsible for the stuff we do and say and think.
What this means, is that saying God is in control, while doing little or nothing to alter the planet in any meaningful way is spiritual rebellion. It is a willing abdication of our calling to be makers of peace and agents of goodness and bringers of justice here. It expects that God will clean up whatever horrible mess we make—and that our prayers alone will serve as the sole request form.
I don’t believe this is true and it isn’t Biblical. I don’t believe Jesus spent three years imploring people to love their neighbors as themselves, to feed the poor, to protect the vulnerable, to love our enemies, and to bind up wounds of strangers—if God had already written the script and we’re all just playing the whole thing out in flesh and blood without getting to improvise and change lines.
And this all matters, because if we are indeed free to choose and responsible for our choices, and these decisions make tangible ripples in the world—then we had better get to work, Christians.
And that means far more than thoughts and prayers platitudes.
In the face of injustice, praying for God to move while remaining stationary isn’t admirable—it’s cowardice. It’s looking around at the frightened, hurting, wounded people in our midst and shooting up a quick 911 call to the Almighty and continuing on with our day, instead of rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty by stopping other people’s bleeding.
God is love.
God is good.
God is powerful.
But God is not forceful and God is not magic.
God works through the hands and words of the people who aspire to this love and goodness, and choose to exercise the individual power they have been entrusted with right where they’re standing.
Jesus is not beamed down from Heaven, he is incarnated in the flesh and blood of those who believe that other people are worth sacrificing for, that mercy is the greatest gift, that love is revolutionary.
God’s Spirit of redemptive power resides in the breathing churches of we who inhabit this place and seek to be sanctuary for those in pain.
And right now, the ancient words of St. Francis are still the most dangerous prayer we can ever authentically pray: God, make me an instrument of your peace.
Because the truth, Christians friends: is that God is not in control of you. You are in control of you and God is asking you to be goodness and love in a way that tangibly changes the story we all find ourselves in. God is asking you what you’re willing to do to bring healing and cease pain and show compassion.