Thursday, December 2, 2010

Tweeting God

Buffalo Bills Wide Receiver Stevie Johnson missed four passes during Sunday’s loss to the Steelers, including what would have been the game-wining touchdown in overtime. Late Sunday night he launched a tirade at God via Twitter for letting him down. He tweeted, “I PRAISE YOU 24/7!!!!!! AND THIS IS HOW YOU DO ME!!!!!!!”

Hmmm… This is disturbing in so many ways. First is the idea that you can communicate with God by Twitter.  Does God tweet? Is this God’s new mode of revelation in this electronic age? 

The second troubling idea is that God is responsible for our mistakes. Where does human responsibility kick in? Does God really compensate for our lack of athletic coordination? I guess if athletes can credit God for touchdowns by pointing to the heavens, then it follows that they can discredit God when the ball falls short of the goal line.

A third disturbing thing is that this man thinks he has the right to yell at the Almighty when things don’t work out as he thinks they should.  If God is really the type of God Johnson thinks he is, then if I were Johnson I would be watching the sky for lightning bolts.

A more fundamental assumption behind Johnson’s tweet is the idea that the spiritual life is a deal made with the Almighty. We agree to praise Him 24/7 and in return he will make us successful in whatever we attempt. If we aren’t successful, then God has dropped the ball – literally and figuratively. Our failures become God’s fault, and we have the right to berate him loudly, angrily and publicly.

This is the arrogance of the “prosperity gospel,” which sees a direct relationship between righteousness and worldly success. If God really does micromanage the universe, including intervening in football games on behalf of his servants, then we ought to observe a direct correlation between righteousness and Super Bowl victories. I don’t see it.

Stevie Johnson’s tweet may seem crude, but it is the unspoken sentiment of many people’s souls. They just don’t make the complaint so publicly. They voice it quietly to their pastor in a hospital waiting room or even more privately in agonizing prayer.

As a pastor I have heard many people say that God has let them down – usually in the form of unanswered prayer, tragic death, or serious illness. Too many people say that is the reason they will have nothing more to do with church or religion.

It is a serious issue – serious enough for the Bible to have a whole book – the Book of Job – dedicated to the exploration of the topic. In the end there is no good answer – no tweet from heaven. No neat explanation for why bad things – things much worse than incomplete passes –happen to people.

In the end we can go no further than Job. For forty chapters Job yells at God, but in the end he shuts his mouth and repents. Not because he has received a satisfactory answer to his complaint, but because he has met God, who has some questions of his own for Job. In the presence of the One who knows all, no answer is necessary.

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