Recently I heard a minister claim that God could (and presumably would) lead a congregation to split from the PC(USA), whose elected representatives had had the audacity, at this summer’s General Assembly, to pass some measures that he and his church council vehemently disagreed with. At the same time, other people are pleased to remain in the denomination, also because they feel led by God to do so, but in their case because they are convinced that the Assembly followed the Spirit of Christ in its decisions. Still more folks are not particularly interested in politics, policies, and pronouncements and simply want to be left in peace to minister in their own communities, far from the storms raging elsewhere. And again, they would claim it’s God’s will that they do this.

When I reported what I heard to my wife, she and I both wondered how exactly it worked that God told people contradictory things and led them to do precisely the opposite from what their sisters and brothers in faith did.

Isn’t it more likely that all this “God” talk is really just the baptism of what we already wanted to do? We take the Bible and read it through whatever lenses feel comfortable to wear and claim that our sin-soaked interpretation is the “right” one, the “only” one, the “clear” one, “God’s word.” And we’re not even aware that our take on Scripture and God’s will may well be just as mixed up and prejudiced and downright wrong as anybody else’s.

None of us, in fact, can or does see the whole Truth. Like Moses (Exodus 33:23), we can only see God’s back, not God’s face, the full-on revelation of all God is and where God leads. Yes, God has come among us in Jesus Christ, who is God’s Word, but that does not mean he ceases to be sovereign or mysterious or “wholly Other” (Tillich). So unless and until we have plumbed the depths and scaled the heights of God’s reality and spoken with him face to face and have had definitively revealed what he wants, a little humility is called for. Let’s focus for now on what we do have clearly from both testaments: that the will of God is love. For him. For our neighbors. For ourselves. As Paul put it, in these days of dim mirrors and partial knowledge, love abides. When we love, that’s the surest sign we can have that we are indeed being led by God.

© 2014 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.