A fitness challenged film producer said that Hurricane Gustav disrupting the Republican Convention was “proof that God has a sense of humor”. At that point we did not know how devastating the storm might become. I thought the remark was tasteless given the timing but I didn’t get too exorcised over the comment.
Both sides of the aisle seem to try to enlist God’s judgment when it is appropriate to support their positions. But the question that always comes up when disaster strikes is a tough one.
Is God judging America?
I have a definite and authoritative biblical position on this issue.
I don’t know.
When Jesus was asked about some tragedies that occurred He did not establish blame…
About 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. Jesus responded, “Do you think those murdered Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you too will die. And 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? Not at all. Unless you turn to God, you too will die.” (Luke 13, 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 with Katrina or the Southeastern USA with recent storms. Some followers of Jesus want God to validate their goodness by punishing those who revel in actions that are not godly. The reaction is not new.
As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village. (Luke 9, NLT)
That should be the template for how we respond. Let God decide on judgment in His timing. 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 and lack of caring for the disadvantaged? 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 drunken Mardi Gras partying? 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 judgment is dispensed here on earth.
Walking down the street, Jesus saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned: this man or his parents, causing him to be born blind?” Jesus 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, 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 any other city or state. 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. If we are the body that is what we should be doing. What I can do is ask the question what can I do? We are too often asking the wrong question when we look to find blame. God can decide who deserves to be judged without my help or yours or a portly film maker. Our biblical response is to pray and put action to those prayers.