Gotcha! Whether it’s a journalist trapping his interviewee, a police officer setting up a speed trap, or the grammar nazi correcting your spell-checked “they’re” instead of “their”, most people despise the “gotcha” game.
Frequently as a pastor, I have caught people talking about God in the same way as genius grammar Karen on Facebook. “Pastor, I don’t know about this vaccine. What if the vaccine contains the number of the beast?!” As if one can suddenly be counted out of God’s number by getting a vaccine, use a 5G network, or take the elevator farthest on the left. That’s pagan superstition and not the reality of God.
“Pastor, I frequently give to beggars asking for money at the train stop, but I was in a rush and had to ignore this one poor fellow today. What if that was someone I was supposed to help?”
Or what about the recent meme about kids praying and thinking that if they think of the devil, then their prayers won’t be answered.
All of these fears have one thing in common. They make God look like He sits around waiting to say, “Gotcha!” Yet many poor people hold this image of God in their heads and it certainly affects their lives. They think God’s law is a game of invisible tight rope and the goal of each day is to not fall off.
Or when considering the end of the world, a great many desperate disciples strain while reading the headlines, hoping to solve a riddle or find a sign. As if it was possible to miss our exit or God’s entrance.
Even when contemplating God’s will for our lives, we tend to think God has some plan for us, and we are left to put the puzzle pieces together. When we choose to go to Notre Dame instead of Concordia University, God says, “Gotcha! You were supposed to choose the latter. Now my plan of world domination has failed. Ten angels lost their wings.”
Finally, I wonder if we think that God’s mission through His church is a game of “gotcha”. When a church doesn’t “do all it can” to reach the lost, God says, “Gotcha! Now those people are going to go to Hell because you didn’t do VBS this year.”
We may find ourselves working out our lives in Christ as if it’s a game of Chutes and Ladders, Password, or Jenga! Whether we are trying to avoid sin, do His will, or determining the end of the world.
Certainly, if we did not know anything about God we might be forced to live like that. Like the ancients making sacrifices when there is a long drought because, for whatever reason, the gods were unhappy and needed to be appeased. For all our claims of evolution, we are just as superstitious as men living in caves.
But we do know God. And He knows us! One thing is for sure. He doesn’t play arbitrary games with our lives. We are not guilty because we didn’t read the tiny print at the bottom of our contract. While He doesn’t tell us whether we should go into dentistry or farming, He tells us quite clearly to love our neighbor and trust in Him. His will is really quite clear. By the way, quite honestly, He could care less what college you go to.
God’s will in your life or in the universe can not be thwarted by you! If you are wondering whether or not you fell off the ‘Law” tight rope – you did. If you think you missed Jesus’ return or you slowed down Jesus’ coming again – you did not.
And if you wonder whether or not God plays “gotcha” with your your life, He doesn’t. Oh, you did screw things up. You did make a poor decision about college. You did miss Christ’s coming on Christmas – like the rest of the world.
You have lost the game of “gotcha.” And the Devil will remind you of that for the rest of your life. But so what?! Christ has died for you. Christ is risen for you. You are forgiven – a blank check you can keep filling out, by the way. You will rise again. You will overcome your mistakes. You will not miss the Savior’s coming again in glory. The game has already been played and Jesus won it for you.
So relax. You are free to do your best. You are free to fail. You are free to miss the signs. Jesus has you!