Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Does God care about human decisions?

Does God care about people's minor decisions? During an election year, exploring God's relationship to human decisions is timely. The question extends to every facet of human life. 

Does God care what we have for breakfast? 
...what clothes we wear?
...who we date/marry?
...what job we pursue?

Ultimately, my question arose from the vitriolic debates surrounding the U.S. Presidential election in 2016. Both Trump and Clinton supporters have tried to argue that God could only possibly support one candidate. Of course, this presupposition assumes the impossibility of human change or transformation. As a pastor, I seek change in human hearts and radical transformation of people's lives every single day. Therefore, why would I not believe that either candidate would be equally susceptible to transformation. 

After the election, my prayer will be the same as it has been for political leaders over the course of my entire adult life: God help our leaders hear your voice. God help them seek mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with you (Micah 6:8). If I truly believe that change is possible, the same prayer will apply to both Trump and Clinton. Based on the news, both candidates could do better at exercising humility and putting humanity ahead of their egos and agendas. 

The original question still remains: Does God care about the minor decisions (including voting) people make? Yes, because the decisions we make reflect what we think about God. Our decisions point out what we think matters to God. If we eat Oreos for breakfast, we do not see our bodies as temples; we do not follow the theology of imago Dei. Even if we claim to be made in the image of God, eating Oreos for breakfast (or excessively any other time of the day) means that we do not care about God's creation. 

The same logic applies to other decisions. What we wear indicates something about how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us. To some people, I might dress as prep. To others, I might appear as a nerd. To still others, I might appear sloppy, whereas to some, I might appear too concerned with my appearance. For me, clothes match a purpose. If I am mowing the lawn, I wear old clothes. If I am going to my office at church or going to visit someone in the hospital, I try to look nice, what we used to call, in my corporate days, 'business casual.' There is no need for a tie, but a ratty t-shirt does not cut it either. If I am hiking or sailing, I wear appropriate attire. Does God care? Not in the explicit, doctrinal sense of prescribing a set uniform for different events, but in the dialogical way of reflecting my beliefs, yes, God does care. 

In Hosea, we find the metaphor of the prophet marrying a "wife of whoredom," and while people get tripped up on the explicit nature of the metaphor, the story points to God's feelings. When we turn away, we hurt God's feelings. The story is not about an interventionist God, but it is about an engaged God who cares. Perhaps, God cares less about what we eat, wear, or do than our motivation. 

Does thIs mean that we can do anything, as long as our motivation is pure? No. There are still right and wrong actions. How do we define what is right and what is wrong? And, how do we avoid the temptation of slipping into a Pharisee-like devotion to following a static list of rules? Both defining the rules and keeping them accurate is a challenge. As time changes, human understanding changes. For example, the covenant relationship connected to same-sex marriage debates in the twenty-first century have little to do with biblical marriage definitions in first-century Palestine. 

Orthodoxy is right-belief. Orthopraxis is right-action. Arriving at orthopraxis requires starting with orthodoxy, and luckily, brilliant men and women have written Spirit-inspired works over the centuries explicating the depth of orthodoxy. Some of the early creeds (e.g. Apostles) are a good place to start developing an understanding of orthodoxy. Then, putting it into practice is a matter of applying it to action. Above, I referenced Micah 6:8, "What does Yahweh require of you, but to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" This verse is a good place to start. 

Notice that this verse is not prescriptive. It does not list specific actions or dos/don'ts. The prophet points to a spirit of following God's directive. 

Does God care about the minor decisions we make? Yes, but not necessarily for the reasons we think. 

No comments:

Post a Comment