I sat with a knot in my stomach this morning as I listened to George Zimmerman claim that his actions in the tragic incident with Trayvon Martin were part of God’s plan. Of course, Martin’s parents responded with their own understanding of God’s intervention in the course of those terrible events.
I said audibly, “Could we leave God out of this?”
I grew up in Central Florida and mowed yards while in high school. Even with my lawn equipment in hand and written orders from my customers, I was often on the receiving end of inquiries from overzealous neighborhood watchers and irritable residents of manicured subdivisions.
On the other hand, having worked with youth for over 20 years, I know how they can react to encounters with authority figures with whom they have no relationship. I’m also very familiar with how their attitudes of independence can often do more harm than good when faced with a confrontation.
I think a mixture of the elements mentioned above led to a volatile and violent, but altogether volitional encounter between Martin and Zimmerman. It will be up to the court to decide how the actions of that encounter are to be interpreted and judged, but the reality is that Trayvon Martin was shot because of the horribly tragic choices made by himself and George Zimmerman.
Please…leave God out of it.
The Martin case is not the only instance of this misguided theological maze. The Crusaders were convinced their campaigns were part of God’s plan. Politicians from both sides of the aisle jockey for Jesus to be seen as the willful architect for their policies. Evangelicals will speculate wildly on the plan of God as revealed in terrorist attacks and natural disasters. This week, neo-reformed blogger Jared Wilson posted a controversial take on “God’s plan” for sexual relationships. This weekend the good followers of “Rev.” Fred Phelps will descend on us here in Columbia, Missouri to protest the funeral of a local soldier killed in action in Afghanistan…of course, each of those mentioned in the paragraph above believes their actions to be part of God’s will.
Leave God out of it, but how?
While I believe that God is somehow…and in some way present and active in every case mentioned above, I simply cannot presume to know with absolute certainty exactly how. There is a mystery in the confluence between human action and divine intervention for which we must maintain humble and healthy respect. I will admit that such a posture is difficult to maintain when we encounter issues and events that affect us on personal levels. However, I would call on us not to make the mistake of presumptuous declarations of clarity regarding the plan of God as a way of reacting to the painful and puzzling events of life.
Leave God out of the guesswork.
If we understand that our perspective is limited, if we acknowledge that our understanding is finite, if we concede that our vision is less than clear, then should we not be slow to fashion the plan of God into the image of our pain, our agenda, or our desire?
I want to leave God out of my pathetic efforts to speculate what the divine plan is. I take God’s name in vain when I seek to tame the “wild goose-ness” of God’s massive and unpredictable way of being incarnationally present in the darkness of wayward human volition.
Sometimes, on the other side of a trial, we get a small glimpse of clarity. Often in hindsight, we see where God was working the plan in, and through, and around, and in spite of our willful choices. At points on the journey of healing, we gain wisdom on what it means for God to work all things for good…even through the pain of injustice. But those moments should move us to awe, wonder, and reverence for the mystery of God’s plan rather than giving us license to drag God into the arena of irresponsible and presumptive proclamations of clarity on what exactly God’s plan is.
Leave God out of that…please.
The scriptures provide the story of a constantly present and active God, working through the person of Jesus, and the power of the Spirit to execute a redemptive plan for humanity’s healing, and God’s glory. We just don’t know exactly how that plan always shakes out. What we are told is where to be as the story unfolds…in the world…with the hurting… where Jesus is.
Now that’s a plan…