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Rev. Adam J. Copeland Headshot

5 Reasons to Stop Calling Things 'God's Plan'

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Topping the list of the most annoying and least helpful excuses ever is the phrase, "It was God's plan." George Zimmerman, a Florida neighborhood watch member charged with the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida, used it this week in an interview with Sean Hannity. But the phrase and accompanying dangerous theology is bigger than Zimmerman, Fox News or the mighty U.S. justice system.

Here's five reasons to stop throwing around the phrase, "It was God's plan."

5. Don't make God into some mighty event planner extraordinaire.

I often have a bagel for breakfast. Sometimes I'm in a hurry or not in the right mood, so I have a banana or smoothie instead. It seems absurd to suggest that God plans my breakfast menu, determining when I forget to buy new bagels or when my particular bananas are ripe. God surely cares that my breakfast is healthy and tasty, and that it reminds me of God's creation and those without food each day, but since "plan" language is too much to swallow at breakfast we should be careful not to throw it around so easily the rest of the day. God is bigger than a cosmic event planner.

4. Who are you to know God's plan?

When an individual claims he or she knows God's plan it often is code for, "I have some secret knowledge that makes me extra special and the rest of the world just better trust me on it because God has only revealed it to me." Certainly God can work through individuals in amazing ways, but such talk usually reveals sinful and dangerous American individualism rather than God's corporate love for all the world. God wills humility too. Get some.

3. God's plan or a failure of personal responsibility?

When I was in high school a friend of mine was killed in a car wreck. He was not wearing his seat belt and thrown from his vehicle. "God's plan" language was used often at my high school that year. Claiming that the incident was divinely ordered helped people cope with their grief. It was easier than claiming the sad truth that, if my friend had buckled his seatbelt, he likely would have survived. Blaming the victim is never healthy, but blaming God for our own mistakes is no better.

2. God's hidden plan?

I've never understood the thinking that God has some meticulously ordered plan for each of us every day ... that God then hides from us. Seems rather inefficient, don't you think? The truth is that God does have a plan for us, but it isn't hidden behind some magical door waiting for us to say the magical words "open sesame" or cross ourselves in the right way. That leads to the point that:

1. God's plan is written clearly, but it's not as simple as a checklist or the latest fad diet.

God wishes the best for us, and cares for us -- and all the world -- more fully than we can imagine. To this end God does present a plan of sorts for us. It's found at the breakfast table if you so choose, because it's in the Bible. The plan is in Micah 6:8, to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God. It's in the Gospels several times, to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31, Matt. 22:37-40, Luke 10:27). The plan includes clothing ourselves with compassion, kindness and patience, forgiving one another, and crowning all with love (Col. 3:12-14). That's God's plan. That's God's hope for us. Before we throw around any more dangerous "God's plan" language, let's try living it out for a change.