It’s been awhile since I wrote – which is my typical way. I am undisciplined, lazy, occasionally fearful of what people will say, uninspired, and prone to reach for the ice cream much more often than the computer or pen. I’m the stereotypical “fat and lazy sitting on her ass on the couch.” I’m sitting on my couch right now. Disclaimer given. Proceed at your own risk.
Today, a pastor I highly respect chose to preach on the sovereignty of God. This after eleven months of Covid, innumerable days of political unrest, and five days after the storming of the Capitol building. Yeah, he said a few things, but mostly he said God is Most High. God Most High. Of all the things that people have been saying, this, that God is Most High, has been conspicuously absent in the discussion. Cuz’ we know that, Captain Obvious, we don’t need reminding. Duh.
Our nation is divided; this is not news. My family is divided; that’s not all that new, either, just more apparent of late. Everybody’s upset. I do mean everybody. Everybody’s scrambling for justification. I have heard both sides of the political debate saying that Jesus is on their side. I have heard both sides saying that they alone are acting in righteousness. I have stopped counting the sad/angry/barfing emojis. They are innumerable. I have heard both sides praying for the win. I have heard both sides insisting on staying the course, of claiming victory against the foe. I have heard both sides say that the other side hates them. Hate seems to be in plentiful supply.
So saying something like, “God is Most High” sounds at first like hoity-toity religious-speak that just puts a nice bow on everyone’s point of view and, yet again, reinforces the divide.
However, if I consider the statement, “God is Most High,” it requires much more than a nod to faithfulness. Because it’s not that obvious after all, is it? How radical that is? In its simplicity it’s dangerously powerful. It dumps me off my high horse. You, too. It requires an entire reset of thought. A laying down of weaponry. A drop to our knees. A full stop.
For if God is indeed Most High, that means at the simplest – we are not. I am not. You are not. If as in Islam, it is said “Al Malik” and as in Judaism it is said “El Elyon” and in Christianity it is “El Shaddai” or “Deus Omnipotens” (if you’re referencing a Latin liturgy) – then there are a whole bunch of us willing to say the words of a simple truth – but not act on it. I admit first. I have said it and walked away mindlessly. La de friggin DA. But it’s a bit more important than that.
If God is indeed Most High, that means my political views are not. If God is Most High, then my choice of representatives or senators or presidents is not. If God is Most High, then my understanding of justice or fairness or mercy or truth is not. If we are Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish, or any other faith that says God is Most High, we are still not most high ourselves. Our understanding is human, biased, flawed – every single one of us, because we are not God and we are not most high. MY entire way of being in this world is flawed, erroneous, dissipated by human frailty, through the lenses my upbringing made for me. At my very best, I am still not most high. I should be begging to be taught by God, passionate to learn what I am missing in my understanding, eager to leap into the bible and drop everything for one second of God’s sweet revelation of truth. But I am me, and so I am watching Netflix. Or Amazon Prime. I’m open to all sides, and I use humor to deflect my embarrassment at my spiritual laziness.
Crap. That is a humbling thing.
I don’t like admitting it. But the truth is, if I say that my understanding of the gospel is right and yours is wrong, I have missed the point. BOTH our understanding is wrong. Both colored by our experiences and history. And both of us need to go back to basics.
God is Most High. And he’s also remarkably consistent. In every sacred book of the monotheistic tradition of our family tree (yes, the Koran; yes the Bible, yes, the Talmud, yes. Sorry about that.) God is Most High and His words are peace. Justice for the oppressed. Mercy for the sinner. Help for the poor. Equity among all peoples. Love.
It’s when we decide to parse out those words with our filters that the whole thing falls over. When we insist on it making sense on our terms. When we start getting out our boxes and labels. Peace, but only for those who look like us and agree with us. Justice, but only for those we deem worthy of it. Mercy, but only for those who have capitulated to our demands. Forgiveness, but only if they’re sorry for being so horrible to us, and only if we think they paid enough for it. Help for the poor, but not for that waste of skin over there. He should get a job. She’s a welfare mom for God’s sake, just popping out kids to work the system. Equity, but not for those parasites. He’s an illegal alien. She’s a convicted felon. He’s an addict. She’s white trash. He’s a black thug with a record. She watches CNN. He only listens to Fox. She’s a snowflake libtard. He’s a racist pig with a Confederate flag. Don’t you realize you can’t just hand out this stuff like candy? They don’t deserve it!
And let’s not even get started about love. We aren’t even close to dealing with THAT.
If we agree though, even at the most superficial level, that God is Most High, then that means…
God is Most High.
So much as I’d like to, I don’t get to choose who He loves, or to whom He grants peace. I don’t get to limit His reach of blessing, of redemption, of acceptance. I don’t get to decide who is family here. I don’t get to say who deserves it. That’s His choice.
What I get to do is to worship. To listen. To praise. To stand awestruck before the Ineffable, then fall down from the sheer majesty of Someone so much more than I can grasp. To let me go and everything I care about. And while I’m there flat on my face before the Lord, to repent, not for my feelings of anger or hurt, but for the sinful actions I take as response to my emotions. To repent, not of my fear and confusion, but for my insistence that I be comforted, that I feel safe, or vindicated, or — dare I say it? — not judged by you, dear reader. I get to let you go ahead and judge me. It’s ok.
Because I know that God is also judging me, even as Jesus stands beside me. God will find me wanting, sinful, dirty and messed up yet again. But He also takes pity, giving me yet again His word of forgiveness and correction.
I’m often wrong, either by ignorance or stubbornness. I am weak, biased, prone to anger, easily hurt, a people pleaser, a person who can’t seem to let go of shame, no matter how many times God forgives me. I love learning but lean precariously towards relying on intelligence as an idol. I try to keep myself safe from the world by retiring into my head. I have a hard time trusting. I envy those who are more patient than I am. I sometimes want to be holier than thou, mostly because I know too well what terrible sinfulness lies under the surface of my cheery demeanor. I can be a heartless bitch. I’m also kind, funny, self-deprecating and fun to be around. I can topple towards humblebragging. I’m a hot mess.
Even now, I hope you admire me for my humility. Do you? Do you like me? Can I have my shiny award now?
Because this is what I am. I am capable of being a good person. I am also capable of being a horrible one. I am covered in self-inflicted wounds of sin, I have hurt others and must make amends in my life, and I am beloved of God anyway, because He chooses that. It’s got nothing to do with me and I can do nothing about it.
I don’t know. Maybe you are some of these things too. But I do know you can’t do anything about His incredibly love for you either. It’s MOST HIGH, and you are stuck with that.
After all, God is the Most High. Not you or me. God.
God. Is. The. MOST. HIGH.
Go talk to Him. Take the risk. Plop over horizontal and listen.
Maybe go see what He says.