Act of God or Natural Disaster
I am troubled by a book I am reading called, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. One issue, among many, that troubles me is this idea that acts of God – like earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc. are God’s way of judging wrong doers on the earth today. Kinnaman and Lyons bring this up in their book, but I have heard this from pulpits, in articles on the internet, and even from the mouths of some Christians I know (though I will not use any names here). To be honest, I have been tempted to think this way myself. Now I am asking myself why?
Many of us have heard the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and interestingly this story is referenced by the Old Testament Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and Zephaniah and then in the New Testament by Jesus, Paul, Peter, Jude and John. But, in none of these references do we see threats that God is going to do what he did to Sodom and Gomorrah in our day and age. So, why are we tempted to think God is acting this way?
Jesus warns us not to judge others and when we pronounce that some tragedy in another person’s life is God’s judgment upon them, we are treading in dangerous territory. As a friend of mine once said, “whatever happened to mercy?” Do we really want to experience God’s judgment?
Do you judge another people? You yourselves have done wrong things. So when you judge others, you judge yourselves, because you do the same things. You judge them and yet you do the same things. We know that God judges people who do such things. And he judges them by what is true. Man, you judge people who do such things and yet you do them yourself. Do you think that God will not judge you? Or do you not respect him for being kind, very patient, and for waiting a long time? Do you not know that God is kind, and he wants to lead you away from doing wrong things? But your hearts are hard. You will not stop. That is why God will be angry with you. He will be angry on the day when people will see that he judges in the right way. – Romans 2:1-5 (WE)
As I continue to ask myself why I am tempted to think in this way at all – I must ask – is my heart hard? Oh, Lord, please soften my heart! Am I trying to minimize my own wrong doing, by making other’s wrong doing seem worse than mine? I love the way the question is asked in this translation of the New Testament, “Do you not know that God is kind, and he wants to lead you away from doing wrong things?”
Have I experienced God’s kindness? To what degree? Can I offer that kindness to others? Do I really think that harsh, judgmental words will lead others away from doing wrong? I don’t know whether the latest earthquake or hurricane was some expression of God’s judgment on mankind or not, but as far I understand the New Testament, Jesus came to offer mercy. I have chosen to follow Jesus, and so I choose to offer mercy and grace and help in time of need. When my daughter asks, “Mom, can I borrow the wheel barrow for our youth group to help clean up people’s homes from the damaging floods?” My answer is not, “Let those sinners clean up after themselves, they brought this flood upon themselves by their evil doing,” but rather, “Here, let me help you load that in the car.” And then I look at the dark gray sky moving overhead, with the bright sun at my back and I see a rainbow, God’s promise that he will never again flood the earth. Yes, my God has the right to judge and the power to do it, but my God has also chosen to offer mercy to all. My God loves, heals, and forgives and my God is not slow about his promises but is patient toward us desiring that none should perish.
You may have heard it said that an earthquake is an act of God judging the earth, but I say to you natural disasters give us opportunity to show God’s love and mercy and to help those who are in need.
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