Christian, Stop Telling Me God is in Control

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.

Your move.

 

 

 

 

 

 

265 thoughts on “Christian, Stop Telling Me God is in Control

  1. I enjoy reading thoughts on God, Jesus, religion and the philosophy behind it. But the comments trouble me. So many confident posters are working from a non-critical point of view.

    As I understand it, God is all powerful, all knowing, is everywhere in the universe at all times, existed before time began, and will continue beyond forever. He is vengeful, jealous, loving, and answers prayers–typically around bedtime. The men in my local church gather in the front, place hands on each other’s shoulder, and murmur together. This is supposed to cure somebody’s cancer.

    Of course, all of that is illogical–but logic isn’t everything. That description of God also flies in the face of the laws of physics. In fact, we mere mortals cannot imagine what a being would have to be like to “have no beginning and no end.”

    No matter. Although it’s impossible for humans to imagine anything about God, somehow the man in the pulpit says he knows what God wants, what God wants us to do, and what God will punish us for doing. My preacher apparently knows the mind of God.

    But the other guys? Their religious leaders are wrong, all wrong. Apparently the only preacher who understands God is the one who lives in my zip code. Boy, I’m lucky I chose the right church!

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  3. There is a very simple, non-sectarian phrase that sums up the core of Mr. Pavlovitz’ message: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. The whole blog article is about how “Relax, God is in control” is the opposite of this simple idea and contrary to the teachings of Christ, who was by all accounts a hands-on kind of guy, whether he was healing sick people, feeding hungry people, or opening a can of whoopass onto the people who defiled the temple by making it about money.
    Instead of getting all bent out of shape over the definition of “in control”, how about just reading the message for what it is: a call for empathy over apathy and positive action over passive inaction from the Christian community. You know, kind of like what Jesus would probably have done.

  4. I can’t tell you how many times I have said :”No, it used to be in God’s hands,but since November 2016 it has been in the hands of the Devil”I still believe there’s a way out. I think that it’s like a weekend at the Overlook Hotel, and Donald Trump is playing Jack to the nation’s family. I fully expect a big snowstorm and an attempted rescue from a man, or woman with “The Shining”, but I’m scared. I hope that Twitter doesn’t cause the world to blow up.

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  6. Pingback: A Response To John Pavlovitz’s Article “Stop Telling Me God Is In Control” | Think Theology

  7. John you are what I consider to be a true Christian. Christianity can be difficult in so many ways. Growing up in the Catholic Church and with my fathers strict beliefs, Christianity always confused me and the church was always a routine, just something we did every Sunday and sometimes every day. I remember feeling guilt 90% of my life for even the slightest infractions. I remember being confused by his racism, not understanding why the God he believed in thought that it was okay to be a racist, when he created all humans in beautiful varieties of skin tones. It wasn’t until I moved out of his home, that I was able to challenge these teachings and question my role as a Christian in society.

    I appreciate your messages and can see that you are a true Christian – one who accepts others. I wish you were the type of preacher I had in my youth and one that my father would learn from. Thank you for your daily messages and for reminding us that we are the tools to make the changes as well as your messages of hope during this dark time of the Trump era.

  8. It is an interesting read yet falls flat on its face with a major misunderstanding of St Francis. He only wants the active life in faith that Francis lives and rejects a core thing about the St Francis and his tradition. Divine obedience was central to Francis’s way, alluding to God being in control with a consistent nature of prayer to discover God’s will. Therefore this is prooftexting.

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