When I was introduced to God some 20 years ago, God had it together. God was in control. God was sovereign. God had a plan. I needed only to believe.
My, how times have changed.
Today, I am viewed primarily as a partner with God in earth work. Salvation is not the end but a means. More organization and less body of Christ, it feels like an application process. “Confess Jesus. Sign your name here. What ministries would you like to be a part of? Let us assign you to a Sunday school or small group. We meet here and at this time. We’ll see you there.” If mentioned at all, heaven is a part of the benefits package, a vacation to be taken when we find time. But, right now we are busy trying to build God’s kingdom on earth.
So, my hands are not counted if they are not on this plow or in that mission field (Luke 9.62). Unfortunately, prayer is viewed not as a response or an action word but as a means of avoidance and accountability. Thanks, politicians. It is not on the sign-up sheet for upcoming projects or ongoing work.
And it is assumed that I am holding God’s hand while I serve. In fact, it is because I am in certain locations and stand with particular people that I am identified as a Christian. If I am not there, then I am not practicing my faith. To be Christian now is to be social justice minded.
It sounds good, right and fair. It sounds like what Jesus would do. But not so fast.
Jesus came into the world to save sinners and there was no talking him out of it (2 Timothy 1.15). While he did heal the sick, sit down with the disabled, disempowered and disenfranchised, and challenge the established rules of religion through his teaching, Jesus came to die. Not to be reduced to the God of signs and wonders, Jesus is the Savior of the world. Remember these words of Jesus about the poor when the woman comes to anoint his body for burial: “You always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me” (Matthew 26.11).
As Christians, our primary activity is not activism but discipleship. So, we are not following the headlines but looking for Christ’s footsteps. Where is our cross and where are we being called to die (Matthew 16.24)? What are we doing to get closer to Jesus and to bring others into this relationship? Are we making disciples or something else? What are learning about God as we “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly” (Micah 6.8)?
I am certainly not discounting the need for justice and our pursuit of it, but activism (which can be substituted with missions and outreach) is not synonymous with discipleship. Because how much do we know about the God of justice? And what do we make of God’s words, “Vengeance is mine” (Deuteronomy 32.35; Romans 12.19)? Maybe some of us already have the answer to these questions. Perhaps there are those who know enough about God or have we simply heard enough about God’s justice and want to initiate some of our own? Who knows?
But, why is there so much confusion when I inherited a certain faith, a faith that was full of convictions, truths and, dare I say, absolutes? God was unchanging. While not predictable, God was dependable. There was a measure of confidence that the believer could assert as to their understanding of God.
There were some things about God that most Christians agreed on and that were not debatable. To be sure, it was not that God could not be questioned but that God was the answer. God could not be figured out but our problems could. God was not scratching the divine head or pacing the floor of heaven, looking at the clock and worrying how things were going to work out because God was and is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.
God was not bound to the same feelings, actions or time constraints that I was. God was less human and more divine. But in recent years, I have noticed that God is just a little more human than I remembered when I professed my faith.
I am not sure when it happened but at some point, God switched places with us. Jesus became our little brother instead of our Elder Brother. It seems that we have repeated that we are Christ’s hands and feet so long and so often that we believe we are quite literally card-carrying members of the Trinity: Father, Son, Spirit and Me.
And if Jesus is our little brother then God is the senile Parent. I hear God talked about as if God is falling apart and not all there. Some speak as if God has not already spoken, like God doesn’t know what is going on or what was said last or what today’s date is.
Instead, God needs to be assisted, taken care of. God needs to be helped out and helped around. And don’t tell God but we are preparing for the inevitable. No, not death but a reconfiguration.
We have an idea and we just need to run with it. It’s what God wants. We have moved ourselves into the position of caregiver and given ourselves power of attorney. Entrusted with the church, we have begun to make decisions on behalf of God as if God is unable to make sound judgments.
God’s words are outdated; God’s will for humanity is challenged. And as with any will, fights have broken out across denominations about what God wanted us to have.
We behave as if God is a project, that God does not have it all together. We believe that God is missing pieces that we have around here somewhere, that God is not a finished work and requires some assembly. But we didn’t always.