Don't Try to Make History

Revolutionists heed the times; terrorists try to change them.

Every revolution has its central figure. The Reformation has Martin Luther, the American Revolution has George Washington, and rock n' roll has Elvis Presley. But any serious student of history knows that world-shaping events are so much more than their main characters. Without the printing press, the Reformation would have never happened. Without guerrilla warfare, the American Revolution would have failed. And without overdriven electric guitars, rock n' roll would have become just another subgenre of blues.

Yet we're compelled to reduce revolutions to their watershed moments. We want to discover those key decisions that turn ordinary people into legends. We want to know whether great men are merely a product of history or if history is made by great men. In short, we want to know if we can make history.

Most would probably say that great people and history produce each other, but the truth is God produces both. No event has ever occurred without his meticulous orchestration. In other words, we don't create change; God does. Sheer will power didn't bring the lives of Johann Gutenberg and Martin Luther so close together, God did. So when Twitter becomes a place for your latest hashtag rant on that week's oppressive ideology, you're bearing the flag of terrorism, not revolution.

With groups like ISIS and Boko Haram frequenting the news, it must sound absurd to compare a hashtag to a carbomb. But at the heart of terrorism is the desire to create change through any means necessary--including force. The method with which this is accomplished is irrelevant because, at their core, both terrorism and activism are incongruent with the belief in a sovereign God. They both attempt to produce change on their own.

Of course, God has chosen to fulfill his purposes primarily through human agency which explains why we believe that we really are responsible for change. But true revolutionists recognize that they are instruments of God, not instruments of change. Still, activists (and terrorists) take this to mean that God's will can't be fulfilled without them. And they won't be satisfied until the object of their ire is completely overhauled. They want everything to change and they want it to change now.

Revolutionists, on the other hand, always cheer for progress, no matter how small. They encourage the baby steps that precede every revolution but go unnoticed by the 30,000-foot view of history. They're satisfied with seemingly insignificant amounts of change because they understand that nothing happens apart from politics--politics that no one person could possibly reconcile.

This posture can become difficult to maintain when it comes to matters of injustice. Like how white privilege is allowed to persist in business, law enforcement, even Christian higher education. It feels wrong to accept anything less than swift justice since any acknowledgement of minute progress seems to disrespect the suffering of the marginalized. But when we say these things, we need to remember who we're really disrespecting.

Again, God is the author of history so if we're dissatisfied with the speed of progress, we're ultimately questioning his judgment. We can't forget that God enslaved his own people for hundreds of years just to give wicked nations a shot at repentance. We must remember that God never encouraged slaves to pursue freedom through any means necessary even though their freedom was clearly his desire. And we need to recognize that God was certainly aware of the oppression that black people have undergone in this nation and avoid the temptation to acquit him of his sovereignty.

If we were honest with ourselves, we'd all have to admit that God's timing is annoyingly slow. That's why Peter wrote years ago that, "the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

But it's easier to accept when you realize that God is managing an entire universe. He's not just the president of a great nation or empire, he's the benevolent monarch of every person in history. As countless as the stars or grains of sand, he's guiding every man, woman, and child through a series of events that will affect more people than they'll ever know. That's what we call politics. And before we get indignant with God for pulling strings we can't see, we need to confess with Job that we're myopic, little creatures who know next to nothing. Because the repeated refrain, "Where were you?", wasn't deflecting or mocking in nature; it was reminding Job that in justifying himself, he was questioning God's justice.

Divine justice is rarely swift, but it's sure. And if we were able to see history from God's perspective, we would understand just how important patience is to the lives of every individual. Revolution will come and history will be made. But if we're to be a part of it, we need to be willing, patient vessels, not rash arbiters of our own timelines. Because no matter how small you feel the progress is, you're so much smaller.

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