A friend and I have been dialoging for a while on a subject I raised about religion, structure, faith, and a return to the original faith. In the midst of those dialogues I heard a line I haven’t heard for some time, ‘moving the hand of God’. I have some simple questions about this line of thinking, mainly for my enlightenment.
What does ‘moving the hand of God’ mean exactly? That I have the ability to make God conform to ‘my will’? I am not sure if it means that but it would follow similar jargon I have heard in churches for years. The other jargon refers to us speaking on behalf of God, that as instruments of faith in Christ, we actually speak for God. These ideas trouble me. They give me a sense of alarm to be honest.
I love this title by Chuck Colson, ‘Who speaks for God’? I read it years ago and one thing always stuck with me, that we do not. We may have the words of Christ in our hands but that does in no way pre-suppose we actually can say ‘God said…’, a very flippant term that is tossed around like we just got off the phone with God. What is wrong with that you might ask? Easy. Is it true?
Now I am aware I can say I am gaining a better understanding of God, but do I know God? Not really. I have never seen Him and His will for my life I cannot be absolute on. What I am aware of is that Jesus came as a sacrifice for ‘that will’, living with us, conversing with us, and understanding our very being. His words were recorded by early disciples and they portray a person that can relate to the human condition, ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’ (doubt) or ‘forgive them for they know not what they do’ (ignorance). Jesus relates to humanity in the utmost with His teachings. That still doesn’t give us the right to act like we authored the book.
We have a book, the bible, and namely the Gospels which refer to the very words of Jesus. That’s it. As far as further authority that other people try to conjure up, well it falls short of my litmus test. We are all interpreting and living the same words in a world far removed from the times of the OT & NT; we have some writings to base a faith on and I recognize that. Do I believe Jesus is really alive? Yes. Do I believe God can intervene? Yes. Faith is still faith to me. What I am doing however is removing the formula for personal spirituality, and if there is a formula it is this: we are human beings in a world of troubles, we have to be 100% responsible for what we do to others and live on this planet while we are here; all that in accordance with our personal understanding of God (now thats spirituality).
Why is ‘speaking for God’ a dangerous thing? It’s supposing we know what God is saying altogether, giving us a false authority (almost as if we were gods). This has proven to be disasterous in all situations I can recall. One can refer to Jim Jones (god complex), Koresh (messiah complex), Jerusalem syndrome (prophet complex) as worst scenarios. Then you get a structure where people see certain figures as ‘people who speak for God’ and to oppose them is almost an apostasy: Pastors, Evangelists, Apostles (do they exist?), Teachers, Prophets, etc. Lastly this leaves the common church-goer at the whims of their leaders. They are duped into thinking certain things about God which may be altogether false: he doesn’t like you anymore, you’re not sure if you’re going to heaven or hell (true insecurity), God is a judge first, then loves you second, You can become an apostate & not know, Don’t dis-obey the church authority or any authority for that matter, Not coming to church means you backslid, your prayers don’t get answered because you’re a sinner, etc. People are fed these messages because someone supposes ‘they speak for God’.
All this leads back to ‘moving the hand of God’. Well how do we ‘move that hand’, OUR prayer. By something I CAN DO. So if I pray hard enough, or for long enough, then the ‘hand of God’ will move. Truth is, I have nothing to do with that ‘hand’ moving. Just like how if you ask me everyday for a loaf of bread and I CHOOSE to say ‘no’, you won’t get that loaf of bread. For all your ‘asking’, it’s still up to the person who ‘will’s’ to give or not give that bread (I speak as a human). Even in saying that I suppose God is like a human, which is most likely false, but that’s my brain for you. The point is I can’t move a hand that isn’t mine. I may ask, seek, knock but it’s still up to God (I can believe that). In the end it is God’s ‘will’ that counts, we see as a human with our own prerogative and biases. That’s what I do know.
So, the question is this – can you ‘move the hand of God’ or ‘speak on God’s behalf’? I am not saying I have the answers, I know I don’t have it all figured out, but I like to hear people’s voices on the issue.