In the wake of a tragedy, the world is sensitive and throbbing, like a wound irritated and freshly opened. Fingers are pointed and blame is cast–from guns to mental illness to the government to the belief that God was “kicked out of the public school system long ago,” the last one standing out from the others as something that makes me so, so sad and not for the reason you’d think.
It’s simply because I don’t think it’s true.
In her blog, Rachel Held Evans counters the argument that “God did not show up at Sandy Hook because ‘God is not allowed in public schools,’ because ‘we have systematically removed God from that place'” by stating:
God can be wherever God wants to be. God needs no formal invitation. We couldn’t ‘systematically remove’ God if we tried.
Like Rachel Held Evans, I feel troubled and provoked by the assertion that God can be removed from somewhere, especially in light of the Christmas message that He sent His son to be Immanuel.
God with us.
Allow me this space to vent.
God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8), He is higher and more powerful than our human laws, and our government, and our educational systems and institutions, all the ways in which we attempt to organize our messy and sinful world.
He is more infinite, more far-reaching, and big that even our most sophisticated systems and intelligent laws cannot even begin to explain what He can do.
To think that a law, a bill, or an institution can keep God out is to greatly limit how vast and powerful He is. Preventing children from saying the Lord’s prayer in schools will not keep Him out, because, as Rachel Held Evans says, He cannot be kept out. He is everywhere at all times, God with us, even when we can’t feel it, even when we think something we’ve done or let happen will keep Him out.
What’s even more troubling to me than the loss of the Lord’s prayer in schools is that hearts have turned away from Him and don’t know His love. Because His people, Christians, aren’t showing them love–they’re keeping it to themselves, sequestered in their churches and programs and systems and then shaking their heads in disbelief when the rest of the world doesn’t follow suit.
They think that what a broken and hurting world needs is another church, another building, another system, another organization, another program or law, turning their noses up at the whiff of anything subversive or different, forgetting how subversive and different the very core of their religion is.
It is not, I believe, the system, the government, the organization, the program or law that people need. Telling people what to do and how to live their lives and “taking over” the government is not going to cause people everywhere to fall on their knees and take up Christianity.
It is you, Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
It’s people, showing His love to other people in the simplest of ways, showing others how valuable they are without a script or a tract or a million-dollar church building or the “anointing” of another spiritual celebrity.
As previously mentioned, Jesus was different. He didn’t require the most sophisticated synagogue to reach out to people, or traveling funds or ministry school degrees or the celebrity status of the modern-day spiritual leader.
His ministry was so simple. He sat with people–the prostitute, the tax collector, the homeless, the adulteress, the sick and poor and forgotten and neglected and built relationships with them. He listened to them, broke bread with them, wiped their tears and spoke to them, the ones from whom many church people would turn away.
Because it was the religious people who ticked Him off, how they inflated their own egos and turned his “church” from being about people to being about getting money from people.
It is my personal opinion that many Christians are fighting the wrong fight. They’re fighting for laws to be passed and systems to be changed, when they should be focusing on how they can change their own hearts from being marred by self-righteousness and pride.
The fact of the matter is simply this:
Jesus loved people, and if we want to change the world, that’s what we have to do too.