20 Jul 2015
It’s often said that the Church flourishes most when it’s being persecuted. When the chips are down, that’s when our faith turns into action. But our Judeo-Christian history tells us that sometimes it has to get pretty bad before we realize we need to do something.
As we know, the Hebrews were on their way through the desert to the Promised Land, still enjoying freedom from Egypt. And they turned around and, lo and behold, there was Pharaoh hot on their trail. The enemy came barreling down on them and what did they do? They just sat down to see what God would do! And God said to that, “Oh no, no, no, no. Why are you crying out to me?”
And I imagine the answer was: Because you’re God. You are our protector, the protector of everything that’s good. Of course, that’s a reason why we pray to God, isn’t it? There’s a lot of good in the world, but there are also a lot of bad things happening that undercut and poison human life. And so we call on our God and we say, “Help us!”
But to that, God most often says, “I’m already helping you. Now stop sitting down and help me.” There’s a tension here. We expect God to overcome evil. And yet, God won’t do it alone. God won’t overthrow evil by himself. That’s not how he operates. About the only things God has done unilaterally, by himself, are: the creation of the world, the idea of the Incarnation, the Ascension and Pentecost.
Even the Great Flood of Noah was done by God through the use of water. He used creation to cleanse Creation. The splitting of the Red Sea, likewise, was done by God—but through Moses. Moses was waiting for God, but God said: No, you’re going to do it—even if it looks impossible.
But Moses and all of Creation are not dumb puppets of God; they are willing, voluntary partners with what God is doing. God is right there to help us and to empower us to do what is right and just in the world. But we have to be on the battlefield actively fighting the good fight against evil in whatever way we can. God depends on his faithful people to be his real presence in the world. That’s how the work of God gets done.
And when the chips are down, when faith, hope and love are trampled on, we remember that—as much as the defeat of evil is God’s work, he needs us to help him. We say, “God, help us!” And God says, “I will. But you must help me.” You must help me.