There are numerous problems we face, as the church, when it comes to sharing our faith with our world. One of the most difficult ones for many of us is the problem of miracles. Miracles are a problem? Wait, aren’t miracles a great testament to our faith? Don’t they show that God is real? Didn’t Jesus come and perform miracles so that people would believe in him? How can they be a problem?
They are problematic in a couple of different ways. First, for much of our Enlightenment shaped rational culture the very idea of supernatural forces operating in our world is ridiculous. It is one of the very first hurdles we have to conquer when sharing our faith with our culture. Some never can get past this hurdle. It is too great a jump for their rational minds. Another problem with miracles is that in our effort to recognize and celebrate God at work in our lives we frequently credit to God that which is not of a miraculous nature or is of such a selfish nature that it is an embarrassment.
When we call it a miracle to find a good parking spot, to get away with doing something stupid and having it not harm us, when Tim Tebow wins a playoff game, or when modern medicine does its work and cures us of a minor physical ailment, we do a disservice to our faith. It is not that God is not a God of the details, it an issue of understanding what God wants from our lives and for our lives. I am completely convinced that God does not care about the outcome of any sporting event. (Despite Ray Lewis’ eloquent post-game speech yesterday about the journey God has put the Ravens on.) We celebrate moments of convenience or personal gain as miracles. What if those personal gains actually work directly against the purpose God has for our lives? Our limited perspective on the work of God will lead us to bad theology of the work God is trying to do in our lives.
The last major problem with miracles is that to us they appear so arbitrary. Some are healed and others are not. The righteous may suffer while the unrepentant are made whole again. Some prayers for healing appear to be answered in ways that go beyond the bounds of science and medicine. Others are either answered through science and medicine or aren’t answered and medicine does its work anyways. God provides desperately needed money at exactly the right moment. Except there are plenty of us Christians living in abject poverty for whom those prayers are never answered.
We have a poorly developed theology of miracles that is encumbered by a poorly developed theology of the gospel. What exactly is the good news of Jesus? How does that inform our understanding of God’s work in our lives right now?
Those are the questions we must wrestle with as Christians in order that we can talk about, seek out, and recognize the miracles of God that take place all around us. Each of us, as the adopted children of God, is a story of the miraculous redemption of God. I believe strongly that God is at work all around us. I believe that miracles do take place. I believe that they happen according to the will of God and the faith of his children.
Yesterday I preached on this exact issue (you can listen to the sermon here) because we as a church community have just lost a dear friend to a battle with cancer. These are the questions of our hearts. I will write some more in-depth thoughts later in the week about how the good news of Jesus shapes our participation in and understanding of miracles. Until then I would love to hear your thoughts on the miraculous.