I have three topics for my church write-up today. Last Sunday, I went to a Baptist church. Most of the people who attend, as well as the pastor, are African-American. But there are a significant number of white people who also attend.
A. The character of God as a parent was one topic that came up. The pastor asked, “How many of you like to give things to your children when they’re disobedient?” The expected answer, of course, at least among those who have children, was “none of us.” The pastor was arguing that God is that way, too.
I went home and listened to another of this pastor’s sermons. He was presenting a scenario of people going to God in prayer with a request, and God responds, “What have you done for me lately?” The pastor’s point was that Christianity is about more than us getting our needs met. God has God’s agenda.
Contrast that with a message that I heard from the pastor of a Word of Faith-like church that I attend every now and then. This pastor presented a different scenario. Suppose you are a parent, and your child is disobedient, and your child gets into trouble. Wouldn’t you go and help your child? Many parents would. The pastor said that God is the same way.
All three of these are plausible scenarios, when it comes to how people act as parents, and perhaps when it comes to how God acts. But they are quite different from each other.
B. The pastor—-I mean the pastor at the Baptist church that I attended last Sunday—-was saying that God blessed him with his wife. He and she first met at church, when neither one of them wanted to be there. But they went, and they met. His wife was sensitive to spiritual things and prays for her husband. For the pastor, their marriage is a God thing.
I thought about a conversation that I had with a friend a while back. This friend was talking about going to college and dating, but he did not find anyone with whom he was compatible. But he met the woman who became his wife when he was off in the boonies somewhere, and they have been together since. He considers that a God thing.
When I had that conversation with my friend, I resented what he was saying. What about people who never find their soul mate? What about people who get into marriages that don’t work? Does God care less for them? Can Christians think about anyone other than themselves and their own well-being, for once?
After hearing the pastor, though, I could sympathize more with what my friend was saying. When a person meets a person in an off-chance encounter, and they form a relationship that actually works and is a blessing to both of them, then I can understand why they would consider that a God thing. It’s like the arguments for Intelligent Design: things could have turned out differently, and there would have been no life in that case, but they turned out as they did, and so there is life. Many see that as a God thing. They think that something more than luck is going on.
I would say that there have been events in my life that I would consider a God thing. Something breaks down, there is not enough money to buy a brand new replacement, and yet we find a fairly inexpensive replacement on Craig’s List. Many would call that luck. But I can understand why people see that as God’s provision.
None of this solves the problem, though, of why God seems to be so present and active in some people’s lives, but not in others. But the key word is “seems.”
C. I do not like calling the tragic events this week a “topic.” I’d rather not comment on those tragic events at all, since nothing I say can do justice to them. Plus, I don’t want inadvertently to say something offensive, or for commenters to leave offensive comments on my blog. But the pastor said something last Sunday that relates to these events, or at least to similar events.
The pastor was criticizing the “Black Lives Matters” movement, saying that all lives matters. As an African-American, he acknowledged that the “Black Lives Matters” movement is protesting real problems. But he does not believe that rioters display much wisdom. He said that it is unwise for rioters to burn down businesses, because then they don’t have a place to go to work the next day. He said that he wouldn’t express these opinions in the middle of Chicago, however, since then he’d be killed.
I do not really know this pastor, but my guess is that he has this perspective because he believes that is how African-Americans can get through life. He probably acknowledges that things are unfair, but he may think that people need to make due with the hand that they’ve been dealt, on some level. But the problem is that there are African-Americans going through life, and they end up dead after a tragic encounter with the police. I wonder what the pastor thinks about that. I’m sure he’s against it, but is it more to him than something that he sees on the news and has an opinion about?
Of course, I cannot make a judgment, since I know little about the pastor. I read on his bio that he used to be a cop. That may factor into his views, somehow, and not necessarily in a gun-ho pro-police manner. He may have a unique perspective.