Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Meditation upon the Recent Tsunami in Light of Luke 13

             Whenever a massive tragedy strikes the normal human response is to ponder “why?” Even as Christians we ask why. When there is a massive loss of life we are compelled to ask “why did this happen? Where was God?” This is an honest and fair question. We can come to at least three possibilities.
1) There is no God. This would explain the “natural” disasters. If the universe is just the result of random chaos then we can expect matter to crash into matter and chaos to have its way from time to time.
2) There is a God but He is has set the world into motion and allows it to run its course. This is the idea of a God who “winds the watch” and then lets it run down. If this is the case then we have a God who does not care. He sits on a throne of indifference.
3) God is loving and He cares for us but He is unable to interfere. “Bad things happen to good people.” It saddens God and He wishes He could help but He cannot. If this is true then we have a God who is powerless over His own creation. If this is true, then He is no God at all.
4) God is in control and God very much cares. And God has ordained the destruction for a purpose.
            The only option that the Bible supports is #4. The only option that I can live with is #4. God is in control of all of creation. God has willed all that has come to pass and all that will occur. Perhaps this is a comfort to some and perhaps it is not. It should be a comfort a comfort because if God is not sovereign (that is, if He is not in control of all things) then there is no point praying to Him for help. His sovereignty makes His provision possible. However, these facts do not answer our question: Why are there disasters and tragedies?
            Some preachers have speculated on the tsunami in Japan already. These speculative sermons are nothing new. It seems to happen with each large disaster. These sermons usually have one of two themes and often a combination of both themes.
                        Theme #1) “The end of the world is near- Jesus is coming back soon.”
                        Theme #2) “God is judging pagans/sin.”
            These sermons are usually built around texts like Matthew chapter 24 (“…wars and rumors of wars…earthquakes…”). Certainly, we are growing ever closer to the return of Christ and we should be warning the world if the coming judgment upon all people for their sins, but these sermons worry me as they presume upon God. Only the Father knows the exact time of the return (Matthew 24:36).
            What about the idea that God is judging pagans and judging sin? There are many Biblical examples of God judging sin and tragedies befalling people for their disobedience. However, again this is being presumptuous. We need to ask the question: If the Lord would begin to judge sin now, where would He stop? God can do as He wants, when He wants, how He wants and with whom He wants. But we cannot be assured that judgment alone is the main motivation of God in these actions. “If the Lord should count iniquity who could stand?”
            If we cannot assume that God is judging sin nor can we know the hour and the day of Christ, what can we learn from such tragedies in which numerous lives are taken in mere moments? What did Jesus say 
about such events?
           "Now on the same occasion there were present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffer this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will likewise perish." Luke 13:1-5

                Perhaps the only thing that can be said with absolute assurance regarding major disasters is that they at least serve the purpose of calling humanity to repentance. We live in a fallen world and these tragedies are the result of the curse of sin. In the hurricane, earthquake, tsunami, cancer, etc. God is calling out to humanity to show them the results of sin and to compel them to repent. It is as if God is saying that the devastation of these events is but a small picture of the greater tragedy that will occur to all who refuse to accept the forgiveness and cleansing that God offers humanity through the sacrifice of His Son. These “tragedies” are great acts of mercy by which God sends a message to all people of their great need for Him.
            “Unless you repent you will also perish.”
Praise the Lord. 

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