You have undoubtedly heard Christians (and others) say in response to a myriad of situations that God is in control.
While they mean well, often this phrase is used as a catchall excuse or explanation. It can be an excuse when we do not want to take responsibility or be held accountable for whatever has occurred.
Moreover, it can be an explanation when, in our assessment, whatever has happened defies a quick, easy or comfortable justification.
When some look at the horrifying attack on our Capitol last week and try to make sense not only of what occurred but also why, they may be tempted to say, “God is in control” and leave it at that. I caution us against this thinking for a couple of reasons.
First, theologically, it is not a sound position.
The truth is that while God is certainly sovereign, God does not control all of the actions of humanity. Whether you happen to agree or disagree with the politics of those who stormed the Capitol, what they did should not be blamed on God.
God is ever-present, all-knowing and all-powerful. Yet this perfect God in heaven has assigned power and authority to imperfect humans here on earth.
Genesis 1-2 reveals that God gave humans authority, dominance and control over certain things that happen on earth. We, God’s highest creation, have free will, the ability to think critically, talk cogently, discern and make split decisions.
Admittedly, we have all too often abdicated our authority or used it for evil and not for good. Nevertheless, it is still ours. God did not just leave us to our own devices after fashioning us, but God did give us power, which we are expected to use.
That brings me to the second reason that I caution us not to make an excuse for or blame the terrible acts of humans on God: It is not prudent for the practical application of our faith to real life.
God intends for us to live by faith (Hebrews 10:38). Our faith allows us to respond to Christ’s work on the cross in securing our salvation. It is when we move, work and live by faith that it becomes possible for us to please God (Hebrews 11:6).
Jesus spoke to the disciples about the power of faith often. One particular time is found in Matthew 21:21.
The disciples had asked Christ how he was able to cause a fig tree to wither immediately after he spoke to it. Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.”
The power to move mountains on earth rests in our hands, our mouths and in our faith. In America, racism and prejudice are mountains that have obstructed us from realizing our ideals since our very beginning.
These mountains have yet to be moved, in part, because followers of Christ refuse to acknowledge they even exist. But, unfortunately, these mountains will not move by us remaining silent. They will only move when we speak up.
We have not gotten rid of these mountains because, instead of actively exercising faith by opposing racist acts, racist people and racist agendas, we shrug off our responsibility by saying things like, “God is in control.”
No. We have the authority to speak to the mountains that are in our way. And when we speak in faith, those mountains must move.
How do we speak to the mountains of racism and prejudice?
We speak through how we live each day. We speak through how we vote and the way we use our money. We speak through where we spend our time and when we exert our influence. We speak through the relationships and coalitions that we build and those that we do not.
We speak to these mountains and command them to flee each time we stand up to bigotry, hatred and white supremacy wherever (and through whomever) they rear their ugly heads. We speak when we literally lift our voices on behalf of the oppressed, overlooked, disenfranchised and abused.
Jesus never told us that the outcome of all of society’s ills were in his hands. He promises that his hands will hold us, not our problems.
Christ’s work was done on the cross. The Holy Spirit is with us now, supplying the wisdom, grace and power we need to move the mountains of racism and prejudice out of the way.
The question is, will we take our God-given authority and do the work of dismantling the systems of greed, terror and discrimination that continue to plague us?
Or will we leave the work undone for yet another generation?
An ordained preacher, writer and encourager, Bridgeforth serves as the senior pastor of the Church at Clarendon located in Arlington, Virginia. Licensed to preach in 2007 and ordained in 2012, she later graduated magna cum laude from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University with a Master of Divinity. Before entering ministry full-time, she practiced law, receiving her Juris Doctorate cum laude from the Howard University School of Law in Washington, DC