Today’s topic is courtesy of a post (and question) from Lonnie.
“I have a question for you Mr. Burchett: What do you make of all the folks who get their soap boxes out every time there is a natural disaster, to shake their fingers and thump their Bibles at saint and sinner alike?”
Is God judging New Orleans for it’s rather obvious bent toward debauchery? Should we cancel all travel plans to San Francisco and Las Vegas just in case they are next? Some Christians seem to think so. A group called Repent America appears fairly confident that God spoke when Katrina ravaged New Orleans.
“Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city,” stated Repent America director Michael Marcavage in a statement. “From ‘Girls Gone Wild’ to ‘Southern Decadence,’ New Orleans was a city that opened its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. May it never be the same.”
Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of a New Orleans church, has warned people that unless Christians in New Orleans took a strong stand against such things as local abortion clinics, the yearly Mardi Gras celebrations, and the annual event known as “Southern Decadence” — an annual six-day “gay pride” event scheduled to be hosted by the city – God’s judgement would be felt.
“New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion — it’s free of all of those things now,” Shanks says. “God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there — and now we’re going to start over again.”
The New Orleans pastor is adamant. Christians, he says, need to confront sin. “It’s time for us to stand up against wickedness so that God won’t have to deal with that wickedness,” he says.
But Lonnie asked me the question. So here is my take.
I don’t know.
When Jesus was asked about some tragedies that had occurred He did not establish blame…
1About that time some people came up and told him about the Galileans Pilate had killed while they were at worship, mixing their blood with the blood of the sacrifices on the altar. 2Jesus responded, “Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? 3Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you too will die. 4And those eighteen in Jerusalem the other day, the ones crushed and killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed and fell on them, do you think they were worse citizens than all other Jerusalemites? 5Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you too will die.” Luke 13:1–5 The Message
If Jesus had a chance to establish blame and did not do it then I am going to be extremely careful about deciding whether God judged New Orleans or South Texas or Florida.
I would agree totally with Rev. Shanks that Christians need to confront sin. But I would suggest that we need to gently confront sin from other Christians as well. We should never be surprised when sinners sin! Jesus wasn’t. He reserved His condemnation for the religious. Would God be more inclined to take out New Orleans because of it’s hedonism or would He be more likely to judge my city of Dallas for it’s materialism and greed? How can I know? Perhaps a Holy God is more upset in how we have squandered great wealth than in how some behave in New Orleans. Is neglecting the widows and the poor less egregious to God than Mardi Gras? I am not smart enough to know. But Scripture seems pretty clear we should be taking care of those in need both physically and spiritually.
There was another time when Jesus could have let us know how judgement is dispensed here on earth.
1Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” 3Jesus said, “You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here. Look instead for what God can do. John 9:1–3 The Message
I would suggest it is time we stop looking for someone to blame. I am not going to try to figure out if God is judging New Orleans or Florida. According to Scripture God sends rain on the red states and the blue states. Okay…that is a bit of a paraphrase from Matthew 5 but you get the point. Instead we should look for what God can do. What God can do is use the tragedy of natural disasters to show His love through His people. We are His hands and feet on this planet. That is what we should be doing. God can decide who deserves to be judged without my help or yours.