Can God really be kept out?

Recently I have noticed many who profess to be Christians crying out that God has been, or is being, removed from the public square.  From the comments of Bill O’Reilly, Mike Huckabee, or the Facebook posts stating that God would love to stop school violence but, unfortunately, he’s not allowed in school (never mind the fallacy of that statement) I fear we have substituted the Lion of Judah for a house cat who needs to be given permission to get on the kitchen counter.  And the one who gives permission seems to be the government.  Tell me, on whose shoulders does the government rest (Isaiah 9:6)?  And who gives the government its authority (Romans 13:1)?

A god who has to be given permission by the government is not a god over the government, but under the government.  And a god under the government isn’t a god whom the government serves, but rather a god who serves the government.  I’m sorry, but the God of the Bible is not a God who serves the government.  He is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, and the Prince of Peace.

So why would God be unable to enter the school?

Does God only go where we ask him to?  

My guess is the Ninevites weren’t begging God to show up and let them repent.  Nor were the money changes asking Jesus to come into the Temple courtyard.  Or the Pharisees and religious leaders for that matter.  Reading the Bible we see God continually show up where he was not asked to.  The incarnation of the Word of God boldly proclaims that we can’t keep God from showing up.  He will come to where we are, like it or not.  To find us.  To rescue us.  To offer us life.  To redeem and restore us.

The obvious objection to this line of thinking is, “Where was he at Sandy Hook or any of the other tragedies that occur?”

I don’t know.  And that is what makes faith in the face of tragedy difficult.  Faith, in those moments, becomes a choice.  A choice to chose life over death.  A choice to work for justice and beauty.  A choice to look for the good gifts in the midst of hard circumstances.

Faith is a constant choice to believe that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not overcome it.

And I wonder, maybe it isn’t that God didn’t show up.  Maybe it is that we, the people of God, didn’t.  You know, those in whom the Spirit of God dwells.  Those who are called sons and daughters of God.  Those who are heirs to the same power that resurrected Jesus from the dead.  Maybe we sat idly by, distancing ourselves from any responsibility for the condition of the land by bemoaning and pointing fingers at those who want God removed from the various public squares all the while ignoring the fact that they can’t keep us out.  

It may seem like a small thing.  Me showing up.  I’m not God.  But it is no small thing for the people of God to show up as the people of God.  Jesus said, “And lo, I am with you to the end of the age.”  If we believe that then guess what?

If we go to the school, then Jesus is there with us.

If we sit with the homeless, then Jesus is there with us.

If we listen to the mentally ill, then Jesus is there with us.

If we go where God is not wanted, then Jesus is there with us.

And not just with us in a feel-good sort of way, but he is with us as we bring his shalom (peace, harmony, justice) to this place or to this person.  What if we believed that?  What if we didn’t just cognitively understand that, but what if we believed it to the degree that we lived that?  How might the world be different?

Might we experience the shalom of God more?

Maybe people would stop wondering where God was because they would know where he was.

He was the one looking them in the eye, holding their hand…the one with them.

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9 thoughts on “Can God really be kept out?

  1. I didn’t take these writings as people really believing God isn’t present in these places. God did turn His back on the Isrealites in many situations. This was one of the judgements on Israel. It was because of the sin and rebellion of HIs people that He did this. It doesn’t mean He left them. He knew He wasn’t welcome in their hearts at that time and He turned HIs face. He just waited for them to repent and then He showed HIs loving mercy over and over again. It isn’t that God isn’t in the public schools, He is. I believe He just gets to a point where He turns His back on us until we wise up, see the error of our ways, and repent! He leaves us to our own follies and our own demise in many cases. It is not too late! Why is it the President quoted BIble verses in his last speech regarding Sandy Hook? Because deep down He knows what is right! We can’t “take God out” of anything! Read Isaiah because it is a beautiful reminder of the foretelling of the coming of Christ, but also listen for the words that show God’s judgement. I believe we are experiencing God’s judgement. Really, we are reaping what we have sown (or not sown).

    • Thanks for commenting Kim. I disagree with your assessment that God just “waited for them to repent.” He sent prophets, sent them into exile, gave them kings (Josiah) to lead them back. God was quite active towards the Israelites in their rebellion.

      I also wonder, what do you think Sandy Hook and other tragedies are judgement for? And who is being judged?

  2. What does it mean to say that “maybe we, the people of God, didn’t” show up? I am really struggling with this. I know so many Christ-following teachers. They try so hard to “show up” every day and work with the forgotton, neglected, poor, disabled children and carry Christ to them, all the while not being able to reference Christ or give these kids what every person truly needs, the gospel. Maybe you can do that. In their position, they can’t. What are you asking of them? Of us? I am fairly conservative and I feel that your assumptions are (1) the Bill O’Reilly crowd has no coherent point; and (2) actually believes in a God that is so limited He can be literally ‘kept out’ of schools; and (3) the Bill O’Reilly crowd are the ones “pointing fingers” while “idly” not ‘showing up.’

    These are serious charges. I don’t watch O’Reilly, but as a lawyer and a person over 50 who always attended public school, I know how the caselaw has developed and school culture and practices have changed. I guess I am who you are talking about.

    • Thanks for commenting K Gray. I think (I don’t want to assume though) you are taking my statement regarding the people of God too narrowly. I did not mention, nor mean to imply that this was about teachers. My reference to the people of God not showing up is to the entire church not showing up in a meaningful, culture changing, life transformation way. Nor am I pointing the fingers at anyone that I wouldn’t include myself in. I very intentionally used first person plural language to include myself in this. My point is, what if we (I), acted like Christ in my community? Would someone like Adam Lanza go unfriended? Would he be isolated? Would his mother have to do it alone?

      • I appreciate this Christ-centered thought about Adam Lanza, and what possibly might have made a difference. I still struggle with this post and what it implies about a certain “stripe” of Christian – always at fault it seems — but I am glad to hear Christians talking about what the body of Christ can do, rather than focusing almost exclusively on what government should do

  3. Isn’t it enough that we as Christ centered people just show others by example who we are and what we are in anything that we do? The people who “need” the gospel will at least see someone who is living it. Then maybe, they will ask what is that makes us as Christians who we are. We tell our story by living our story every day. And sometimes we have to show up in places where we seemingly are not wanted to do that.

  4. Pingback: was God there? {day 131} « fostering a grateful spirit

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