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.