God, Justice, and Our Collective Will

As the country waited to hear the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, there were a host of emotions present as we waited to learn Zimmerman’s fate. Many were hopeful that justice would come quickly for 17 year old Trayvon Martin; we ended the night only to have our hopes dashed with a not guilty verdict.

I took some time to look at the response of many people while we waited for the verdict and even afterward. People around the country had a similar request:

While I could spend many words expressing the feelings of despair and hopelessness people had surrounding these developments, there was a common theme that abounded throughout the night: the need for God’s “will to be done”. As hundreds of people tweeted and posted about wanting God’s will to be done with bated breath, hoping the verdict would offer solace to both the Martin family and supporters across the country, the collective disappointment was met with even more social commentary about how we will continue to wait for God’s will to be done and, as Psalm 94:1 suggests, allow God’s vengeance to do the work that the judicial system could not do.

I am not arguing any facts or failures about this case. The aforementioned introduction shines light on my personal views of the case, series of events, and desired outcome.

I am, however, raising theological questions about God, justice, and our collective will.

I mean, how do we find/know God’s will anyway?

We could use algorithms and formulas to figure out God’s will…
Powerful scripture + past experiences / prophetic word from a televangelist = God’s will?
A bible story + prayer x a seed of faith($) = God’s will?

Here are the hard, theological questions I have about praying for God’s will in the midst of waiting for and reacting to Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict:

Since the verdict was not in Trayvon’s favor, does this mean that God was not listening to the supplication of those who wanted a guilty verdict? Was God’s will to allow the Martin family to not see justice and face the devastating pain of having their son’s killer go free? Does God, in fact, will for George Zimmerman to be a free man? Does this mean that Zimmerman’s life was more valuable than Trayvon’s?

Can we definitively say that our prayers for God’s will to be done come with the presumption that God’s will is like our own? And when these things do not work in our favor, does it now mean that God is in opposition to us?

More importantly, whose will is really at work in the earth?

Is it God’s or man’s?

God gave mankind the ability to choose. Many people call this “free will”. We are able to make our own decisions, one way or the other, with or without an understanding of God’s will for any given situation. I imagine that even when we are fully aware of what we think is God’s will for our lives, we still have the ability to choose otherwise.

Zimmerman made a choice on a cold, rainy February night in 2012. Some may argue that his actions were a part of “God’s will.” Others would scoff at the idea. Nevertheless, it was his ablity to exercise his free will that took Trayvon’s life.

So what does this mean for God, justice, and our collective will?

I’m reminded of Marvin Gaye’s song, “I Want You” where he croons over a carefully orchestrated melodic tune with electric and bass guitars, bongos, and string instruments:

I want you / the right way / I want you / but I want you to want me, too.

During my time in seminary, I’ve learned that God can be quite narcissistic, conceited, and totally consumed with Himself. We see countless scriptures throughout the Old Testament where God’s desire for a monolithic worship experience with His people was of prime importance and this incessant need to be chosen by His people is how much of the biblical text plays itself out.

God wants us to want Him the way that He wants us. He wants us to choose Him, intentionally.

But I’m convinced that God knew that we would not always choose Him on purpose. This free will gets in the way of seeing how amazingly wonderful it is to love God, to choose to be in relationship with Him. Our sinful nature pushes against the very idea.

Because God knew we wouldn’t choose Him on our own, He sent Jesus to show us how serious He was about us choosing Him. I’m being a bit presumptuous, but I think God knew that we would not choose Him on our own — our fleshly nature innately rejects God and our minds would only follow suit in a proverbial rebellion against The Creator.

God sending Jesus was the ultimate example of divine leadership: a leader should not expect their followers to do anything they are not willing to do themselves.

So God gives the ultimate sacrifice (His son) to prove that though He was asking us to make a choice to choose him (something that we could not do through our mind/flesh),  He first had to show us what it truly meant to not only sacrifice but to choose intentionally.  Choosing had to be a HEART matter, it could not be  an act of the flesh. God gave his son Jesus as a HEART sacrifice.

So, when we begin talking about God’s will versus our own, though we have the ability to choose any way we would like, when we consider that LOVE fueled God’s decisions to not only create us but sacrifice for us, we have a new lens to look at how we engage in the process of finding justice for those who have been wronged.

We will never be able to answer the question of what God’s will is — especially when it is juxtaposed against human free will. What we do know however, is the core essence of having any type of will at all, is that every choice is a heart matter — when we live and act in LOVE we don’t have to war with who’s will is at work — LOVE is what drives our decision making and communal interactions.

On the Chase for Justice,

Alisha L.

George Zimmerman’s Sunday School Lesson

Yesterday, George Zimmerman, the accused killer of Treyvon Martin, spoke exclusively to Sean Hannity about the series of events that surrounded the murder of the teenager.

I didn’t see the entire interview, but upon waking up this morning, everyone was talking about this statement Zimmerman made about that night being a part of “God’s plan.” I, like many people, stared at my computer screen trying to understand how he could make such a statement with a straight face.

Let’s make one thing clear: I am not here to get into a theological debate about God’s will, free will, or any other topic that many who don’t believe in God try to argue to discredit Him. As I always say: if I’m wrong, I’ll die, turn back into dust and that’ll be it. Nothing to it. If you’re wrong, well… let’s just say it’s not a risk I’m willing to take.

What I will do is give Georgie a Sunday School lesson. Some basic bible principles that he may have missed while sleeping in church.

Sunday School Lesson #2,125: Matthew 5:20-26 and Romans 12:17-21
Teacher: now children, listen to what Jesus has to say about murder. Georgie? Georgie! Wake up — this is important.

Georgie: “Ah fooey, lady. Wake me up when we get to the good part.”

Zimmerman stated that he didn’t regret anything that happened on that fateful night he killed Trayvon Martin and that everything that happened was, in fact, a part of God’s plan.

“I feel that it was all God’s plan, and for me to second guess it or judge it,” he said, trailing off.

Asked, “Is there anything you might do differently?” Zimmerman said, “No, sir.”
[taken from ABCNews.com]

Here’s the issue, Georgie. You can’t say that killing Trayvon Martin was divine providence when your actions went against one of the core teachings of Christianity. In Exodus 20 verse 13, we were given the sixth commandment which states: thou shalt not murder.

God ain’t confused. He meant what He said on top of Mount Sinai. You can’t murder someone and say, “Oh, the Lawd made me do it!”

We test the spirit by the spirit (1 John 4:1) and those things God has providentially called us to do is in line with His spirit.

Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.

The greatest issue I have with your public display of ignorance about the God you reference is that you have done a disservice to the Christian faith by validating your actions based on this version of a God who gives us the free will to murder as we see fit.

Too often people claim to be Christians but have no idea what it truly means to follow Christ. Had you paid a little more attention in Sunday School, you would have known that John 10:10 clearly tells us that it is Satan that comes to KILL, STEAL, and DESTROY, not God. Jesus came to give us life and to have it to the full.

You would have been better off saying that Beelzebub gave you the okay to pull the trigger. We would have looked at you like you were crazy (again), but at least it would have been the truth.

You should know, Georgie, that 2 Peter 2:2 says that “many shall follow false teachers (which is what you became when you brought God into the picture for your defense on national TV) and their destructive ways. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered.”

If for one second you think that killing someone was a part of “God’s greater plan”, you have been fooled.

You stated that you “wished that there was something — anything I could have done — that wouldn’t have put me in the position where I had to take his life,” alluding to the same idea that your encounter with Trayvon was fate, divine, and all a part of God’s plan… to do what, exactly?

I’ll wait.

Listen, Georgie: God did not make you kill Trayvon. This was not a part of God’s plan for your life or Trayvon’s. The enemy has tricked you into thinking that this was the right thing to do and you fell for it.

Sadly, you’ve been hoodwinked and bamboozled into thinking that only bits and pieces of God’s word is true — forget the “reap what you sow” and the “weeping, moaning, and gnashing of teeth” stuff.  Swerve.

Not applicable to guys to like you, huh?

But you want a big ol’ piece of that forgiveness pie, right?

I’ll leave you with this last bible lesson, Georgie. Romans 12:17-21 is the most gracious and, in my opinion, most appropriate scripture to sum this entire experience up for you. It wasn’t a divine moment in time, George. Sorry. It was, however, a moment for you to use the Word of God in context and with discretion.

17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say,

“I will take revenge;
I will pay them back,”
says the Lord.

20 Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”

21 Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.

Got it? Class dismissed.

On the Chase,

Alisha L.