“God Isn’t Fixing This”
the headline reads.
You may have seen this by now. It’s the headline on the cover of The New York Daily News dealing with the mass shooting in San Bernardino at a social services center. The scene itself, which involved a manhunt and a shootout taking hours, was itself deeply disturbing. And given the amount of grief and pain shared all over the country, our rote responses do seem a bit hollow.
A lot of people are frustrated. OK, everyone I know is either frustrated or has checked out. Let’s not talk about it they say. Too depressing. My own response is that, as Christians, the most depressing times are when we are most needed.
The cover, which chides those responses of thoughts and prayers, is intense; seeming to push us some place we are ordinarily unwilling to go in public. Regardless of how genuine one thinks these public prayers we seem called to share may be, there is a very real heart to this mess we aren’t expressing. Some very genuine feelings of hopelessness and anxiety. Some expectation that a good and gracious GOD would come and fix our problems for us. That if prayer really works, we will be healed. All our sins would be no more.
This seems logical, afterall. For what is prayer but a call for help? What are we to do, but ask GOD for guidance in the midst of tragedy? Isn’t saying “God isn’t fixing this” at some level blasphemous?
Well, no. And yes. Or better: not at all in the way we often mean it.
GOD is not a divine butler, swooping in when we ring a bell. GOD doesn’t show up only when we call. GOD is here. GOD is always here. So GOD isn’t a superhero coming to save the day. GOD is with us in our adversity, helping us, hoping for us, and giving us strength to carry on.
GOD is not out there. GOD is here.
Our tradition also reminds us that GOD doesn’t cause tragedy or relieve us from tragedy. So often we respond to these moments like Mary and Martha do to the death of their brother, Lazarus. If only you had been here, Jesus! We so relate to them in that moment. Where are you, GOD? If you were here, then you could have saved those 14 people! But GOD was there. Holding the dead. Comforting the mourners. Giving strength to the officers and the emergency personnel. GOD doesn’t cause tragedy or clean up after tragedy. We do.
Perhaps this is why Paul wrote so beautifully to his people in Corinth. These people, who were treating one another poorly, who disrespected their neighbors, get a serious tongue lashing throughout 1 Corinthians. But then Paul turns and describes what Christian community really looks like. He speaks of our many gifts we offer, then compares the people to the body of Christ, and we as his members.
The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you. ’On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it.
1 Corinthians 12:21-26
Like the invocation that our ignoring the suffering means we ignore Jesus, we are called into service: service to GOD in Christ and to GOD in our neighbors, who compose Christ.
The work is ours, for GOD works through us.
So the only way to fix our problems is to engage them, engage one another, and engage our faith in Christ.
In this way, GOD isn’t fixing this. GOD doesn’t work like that. No superhero swooping. No cleaning up our mess. It is our work to fix it.
But actually, that is how GOD works. We are the body of Christ. GOD does fix through us. When we literally embody GOD. When we build the Kingdom of GOD. A kingdom of peace. A kingdom of justice. A kingdom of true equality and freedom.
So yes, we have a lot of work to do. We, with GOD, can fix this.
Peace be with you,