Where Was God When?
I want to address something. In light of the tragedy in Colorado, the question has been asked, with the usual regularity when something horrific like this occurs, “Where was God?”
This question exposes, at the least, a bad attitude toward God as well as ignorance of the relationship of humans to God, in general, and Americans to God, more specifically.
God created a perfect world, then placed humanity within it. It did not take us — yes, “us” — long to wreck everything: we wrecked our relationship with God, we wrecked our relationship with each other, and we wrecked our relationship with the world. We are solely responsible for the unravelling of life on earth. I say “we” because, in one way or another, whether adamantly, with fist in God’s face, or quietly, without saying much, we have all rebelled against our Creator and decided that we can and will run our own lives. God made us and he expected us to submit to him because he knows what’s best for us. We decided to sail our own ships.
At that point, whenever that occurred for each of us, God owed us nothing. NOTHING! We deserve nothing more than a one-way ticket to fire lake, forever. In the face of objections to that, I reply that it is not that we committed this or that sin that does not seem deserving of so stiff a penalty; no, it is that we have told our Maker that we know better than he how to oversee ourselves and our world. That’s rebellion. The magnitude of the rebellion is to be judged by the character and the grandeur of the one against whom it is perpetrated.
Though God owed no one anything, he chose to become one of us and die in our place, paying the penalty we deserved so that he could offer us another opportunity to submit to him and enjoy a relationship with him that he wanted in the first place. He did not ask anyone’s opinion or permission about doing this. It was entirely his idea.
Nevertheless, God, as can be seen from the fact of our rebellion against him, has given each of us the freedom to live in obedience to him or to reject his lordship. All of us have chosen the latter. Neither his creating us nor his acting in Jesus to redeem us has caused God to force us to obey him.
Because of our collective disobedience, creation has suffered. Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, typhoons, droughts, and the like are not “acts of God.” They are the convulsions of a cursed earth, thanks to the sinful handiwork of humanity. In other words, they are all, ultimately, our collective fault.
Our freedom of will means that we can choose to abort babies; we can choose to get drunk and run down some innocent person with a vehicle we should not be driving; we can choose to shoot people at random, killing for no reason; or, we can choose to wreak any other kind of havoc of which humans are capable. God does not do those things. People do those things.
Where is God when these things happen? At least two answers need to be given. One is that God is in the same place he was when his own son, the Lord Jesus Christ, was nailed to a cross. Jesus was blameless, utterly undeserving of being murdered. But he did that for people anyway, so that they could be rescued from rebellion and cruel behavior.
The other answer is to say, Wait a second? What do we mean “Where was God?” Is God a butler, towel over arm, waiting for us to ring the bell so that he can respond to our beck and call? How can we (I’m thinking particularly of Americans, since I am one and I know America better than any other nation), who have told God in a myriad of ways to get the he– out of our society, then question his whereabouts when tragedy strikes? How can we, who “JC” this and “God da–” that, then have the audacity to expect that he show up in time to divert some disaster of our own making? We’ve told God to get out of our lives. He has done as we have asked. Can we now demand that he “get to work being God” just to clean up our messes, after which cleanup we, of course, want him to retreat again into the distance?
How can those who, as a matter of course, as a regular habit, want nothing to do with God, question his whereabouts and lack of attentiveness to our self-created hells? How can we be so arrogant? How is it we are so expert at adding to our galactic guilt?
Of course, we want God to show up only when one of us is about to hurt others in certain ways. We don’t want God to show up to stop other kinds of evil, like our personal sin. We’re selective in what we want God to get involved in. We want God around only for certain kinds of nastiness. For most everything else, we want him gone.
Those who submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ, who pursue a growing relationship of intimacy with him, can expect God’s watchcare. But even such a person as this cannot demand that God act in any particular way. God is, God! We are human. We don’t know the first thing about what it’s like to be God, yet we question and rant about his behavior as though we used to be God and turned the task over to him. We could know a lot more about God if we would give more attention to the book he has given us. It claims to be, and it is, a revelation of God.
I barely know God. But everything I know of him makes me love him and want to live for him. Nothing in my 44 years of knowing this God causes me to question his actions. My only questions for God are these kind: How could you love us so? How do you put up with abuse that is heaped upon you endlessly, and has been for millennia? How is it that your patience did not run out ages ago? How could you pay such a price to give us another chance to know you?
I like where God is: in control of everything, all the while giving humans their freedom to choose good or evil. However, one day God will finally show up to say, “Enough wickedness! No more violence and injustice.” One day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess: “Jesus Christ is Lord.” We can do that now voluntarily. Or we can do it then compulsorily.
God is not anyone’s — not any individual’s nor any society’s — personal genie. Would we like him to pay more attention to us? Then we should start paying more attention, a whole lot more attention, to him.
We have turned the question around. After our original parents sinned, they hid. God came, asking, “Where are you?” That’s the question that we have to answer. Relative to God, where are you?
One more thing: If you don’t like this answer because it is based on the Bible as a revelation of God, then what business do you have asking where this God is?