Michael P. Friday
Christians can be often heard to say, “Never mind, God is still in charge.” This comment is usually and especially uttered in a situation where there prevails a seemingly insurmountable wave of badness, crime, wickedness, or incredible abuse of power, or where person or persons, utilizing dishonesty, lawlessness or injustice, appear to be winning, while innocent folks lose. “God is still in charge” is kissing cousins with comments such as “God will take care of you” (in reference to a situation where someone faces incredible odds, suffering, or prolonged danger), or “in the end, God will have the victory.” Granted, these comments are made when the speaker or the hearers are truly in a helpless and powerless state; but it is arguable that in most cases, they are not.
Realistic folk who do not live in denial shall admit that there are times when they are moved to question: “Was God really in charge? Did God really win? Did God really take care of you?” The incredible loss of life in natural disasters, and injustices and wanton wickedness in cases such as the holocaust, the hundreds of years Africans were subjected to the ravages and barbarism of slavery, subsequent mass lynchings, the horror of 9/11, are events at which those questions are either asked or avoided. After all, why does God, in a hurricane, skip Florida, but pummel Texas? Why do Jamaicans say, “God spared our lives!” when Cubans – from the same hurricane – grieve at incalculable loss of life and property?
I wish to posit (without pursuing any exploration of that position) that these questions, if nothing else, beg the question of either the reality of God or the assumptions about the nature of God. Since I am not an atheist, I suggest that these tragic scenarios I have suggested – if even not the reasonable questions they might elicit – challenge believers in God about some of the smug ideas they have about God which may be found, in the long run, to be facile, puerile, and indefensible for logic, consistency and intelligence.
I posit a second, less difficult thing: Christians should find a way to make the transition from the seeming cop-out of responsibility, implicit in these “God is in control” and “God will take care of you” statements to taking responsibility implied in the biblical affirmations that they are “ambassadors” of God, “fellow laborers” with God, that “greater things than (what Jesus has done) (they) shall do,” and that they “can do all things through Christ who strengthens (them).” I suggest that these such affirmations require Christians to act: to take charge, to initiate, effect and to be instruments of the completion of change. These statements require the speakers to search for ways to take care of those who wait on God to take care of them; the speakers should not say to the suffering (or homeless, or hungry, or disfranchised), “Be blessed; go in peace; God will take care of you.”
Christians who declare these statements must take any honorable and sacrificial actions necessary to ensure that good does win over evil (instead of declaring, in lame resignation, “God is still in charge”) so that they might not lift a finger to expose, assail, mitigate, or neutralize evil. Christians must stop “waiting on God’s victory” if that waiting is inaction, cowardice, cowering away from the powerful wicked, silence at corruption, a see-hear-speak no evil culture, and a general dereliction of duty. Christians must adopt instead, a “waiting on God” that strategizes for resolution, help, victory, justice, and closure, and a readiness to enact and execute that strategy, “when the time has fully come.” To do anything less may be tantamount to dereliction of responsibility.
That execution, of course, must be in the power, confidence, courage, faith, faithfulness and spiritual resources that Christians believe God provides, which cannot be (and often are not) found in money, university degrees, property, status, or fame; or which are confined only to people with such resources.
Michael Friday is an organizational leadership specialist and consultant. He is author of And Lead Us Not Into Dysfunction.