As the country waited to hear the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial, there were a host of emotions present. Many were hopeful that justice would come quickly for 17 year old Trayvon Martin; we ended the night only to have our hopes dashed with a not guilty verdict.
I took some time to look at the response of many people while I waited for the verdict and even afterward. People around the country had a similar request: “let God’s will be done.”
There was a common theme that abounded throughout the night: the need for God’s “will to be done.” As hundreds of people tweeted and posted about wanting God’s will to be done with bated breath, hoping the verdict would offer solace to both the Martin family and supporters across the country, the collective disappointment was met with even more social commentary about how we will continue to wait for God’s will to be done and, as Psalm 94:1 suggests, allow God’s vengeance to do the work that the judicial system could not do.
I am not arguing any facts or failures about this case. The aforementioned introduction shines light on my personal views of the case, series of events, and desired outcome. I am, however, raising theological questions about God, justice, and our use of free will. I mean, how do we find/know God’s will anyway?
We could use algorithms and formulas to figure out God’s will…
Powerful scripture + past experiences / prophetic word from a televangelist = God’s will?
A biblical story + prayer x a seed of faith($) = God’s will?
Here are the hard, theological questions I have about praying for God’s will in the midst of waiting for and reacting to Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict:
Since the verdict was not in Trayvon’s favor, does this mean that God was not listening to the supplication of those who wanted a guilty verdict? Was God’s will to allow the Martin family to not see justice and face the devastating pain of having their son’s killer go free? Does God, in fact, will for George Zimmerman to be a free man? Does this mean that Zimmerman’s life was more valuable than Trayvon’s?
Can we definitively say that our prayers for God’s will to be done come with the presumption that God’s will is like our own? And when these things do not work in our favor, does it now mean that God is in opposition to us? More importantly, whose will is really at work in the earth?
Is it God’s or man’s?
God gave mankind the ability to choose. Many people call this “free will.” We are able to make our own decisions, one way or the other, with or without an understanding of God’s will for any given situation. I imagine that even when we are fully aware of what we think is God’s will for our lives, we still have the ability to choose otherwise.
Zimmerman made a choice on a cold, rainy February night in 2012. Some may argue that his actions were a part of “God’s will”–Zimmerman claims that the events of that night were all in God’s plan. Others would scoff at the idea. Nevertheless, it was his ablity to exercise his free will that took Trayvon’s life.
So what does this mean for God, justice, and our collective will?
I’m reminded of Marvin Gaye’s song, “I Want You” where he croons over a carefully orchestrated melodic tune with electric and bass guitars, bongos, and string instruments:
I want you / the right way / I want you / but I want you to want me, too.
During my time in seminary, I’ve learned that God can be quite narcissistic, conceited, and totally consumed with Himself. We see countless scriptures throughout the Old Testament where God’s desire for a monolithic worship experience with His people was of prime importance and this incessant need to be chosen by His people is how much of the biblical text plays itself out.
God wants us to want Him the way that He wants us. He wants us to choose Him, intentionally.
But I’m convinced that God knew that we would not always choose Him on purpose. This free will gets in the way of seeing how amazingly wonderful it is to love God, to choose to be in relationship with Him. Our sinful nature pushes against the very idea.
Because God knew we wouldn’t choose Him on our own, He sent Jesus to show us how serious He was about us choosing Him. I’m being a bit presumptuous, but I think God knew that we would not choose Him on our own — our fleshly nature wants to reject God and our minds follow suit in a proverbial rebellion against The Creator.
God sending Jesus was the ultimate example of divine leadership: a leader should not expect their followers to do anything they are not willing to do themselves.
So God gives the ultimate sacrifice (His son) to prove that though He was asking us to make a choice to choose him (something that we could not do through our mind/flesh), He first had to show us what it truly meant to not only sacrifice but to choose intentionally. Choosing had to be a HEART matter, it could not be an act of the flesh. God gave his son Jesus as a HEART sacrifice.
So, when we begin talking about God’s will versus our own, though we have the ability to choose any way we would like, when we consider that LOVE fueled God’s decisions to not only create us but sacrifice for us, we have a new lens to look at how we engage in the process of finding justice for those who have been wronged.
We will never be able to answer the question of what God’s will is — especially when it is juxtaposed against human free will. What we do know however, is the core essence of having any type of will at all, is that every choice is a heart matter — when we live and act in LOVE we don’t have to war with who’s will is at work — LOVE is what drives our decision making and communal interactions.