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- Reactions to the earthquake of January 12, 2010.
- Some assert that the earthquake was divine punishment (for Haiti's sin, corruption, voodoo...)
- Similarly, many falsely believe that there is some sort of covenant between the Lord and their country. Like Jesus' disciples in John 9, we assume someone sinned, whereas this may not be the case at all.
- Was this divine judgment? In Old Testament times God did indeed use natural phenomena, as well as foreign armies, to chasten his people. But such physical punishments are not part of our world in the time of the New covenant.
- The rain falls on righteous and unrighteous (Matthew 5).
- There will be a judgment day – everything will be destroyed by fire – but that is at the end of history.
- In my opinion, it is unwarranted biblically to interpret natural disasters as divine punishment.
Ten points, or perspectives, for your consideration
1. Be aware
Disaster strikes daily, somewhere. There is nothing unnatural about natural disasters. Click here to read about some of the greatest natural disasters in history.
We live on a dangerous planet. Without earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornados, wildfire, avalanches, mudslides, and other routine disruptions, there would be no life on the planet.
Therefore, we ought not to be surprised when such things happen.
2. Don’t blame God.
Job suffers great loss in a series of disasters, a couple of them natural (Job 1).
We learn some important lessons from Job:
- God does no wrong.
- God is not obligated to give us any answers about the problem of suffering.
- We should maintain a posture of humility and worship, even in the midst of unspeakable catastrophe.
3. Understand the role of human impact
Often disasters are exacerbated by human error (deforestation, fires, choosing to build on unstable ground, ignoring or mispreting warning signs (tremors before a quake, a volcano "coughing" before eruption), substandard construction.
This points to a critical need for education.
4. Understand where responsibility lies.
Certainly the rich have an obligation to the poor.
And yet the goal is not to force the entire world to live at the same standard of living. Equality in 2 Corinthians 8-9 is not about standard of living; it is about everyone having enough to eat.
Individuals make choices; governments make choices. Intervention often only perpetuates cycles. Responsibility must be assumed locally, not just from abroad.
5. Watch out for false guilt.
Principle of moderation (Proverbs 30), stewardship (1 Corinthians 4), generosity (1 Timothy 6).
Though the was severely criticized for expensively of anointing the Lord, her critics did not really care. They sounded pious, but they were wrong.
Jesus also reminded us, "The poor you will always have among you, and you can help them anytime you like."
Paul also had a mature perspective. Whether well-fed or in want, he was content. There is no inherent virtue in riches or poverty.
It is easy for pride to lead us to embrace an unbiblical asceticism, and look down on others. Colossians 2:20-23.
Hope should not be put in insurance, money, the government, but in God.
1 Peter 5:7 and many other passages urge us to pray and trust God with our burdens.
How he answers our prayers may remain a mystery, but scripture assures is that our supplication makes a difference.
7. Express compassion.
Nor just by sighing or moaning or shedding a tear…
We can say the right things, but is our heart right? Zechariah 7:5-6.
- Do give money
- One reason Christians need to avoid frivolous spending, and try to save some money, is so that they will be able to help others when disaster strikes.
- Another reason for compassion – a reason to care – is the Cross. This is where God’s love is most clear. He enters our world of pain and suffering. No one can say he doesn’t understand. Jesus came to earth. Incarnation…
8. Get personally involved.
Act incarnationally… get your hands dirty.
Enter homes, give people a hug, write notes, emails, show respect….
Delivering food, clothes, and other materials personally, if possible.
There is an enormous emphasis in Bible on the need to get involved!
Listen to the podcast on Serving the Poor for many scriptures.
9. Be ready at any time, because Death may call at any time.
2 Peter 3.
Luke 13:1-5. Don't assume that people necessarily get what they deserve in this life.
- We ought to be ready to die
- We need to be about helping others to be ready for death.
- People act as though death is unnatural, some sort of surprise, yet mankind has a 100% mortality rate.
- For a believer, death propels him to paradise. For an unbeliever, death ends his opportunity to respond to the voice of God.
- Whether we die “natural deaths” or not, we all need to be ready!
10. See the opportunity for God to be glorified.
- Yes, think carefully, yet
- Over-analysis does not help.
- In every disaster there is an opportunity. Jesus gets involved. We should get involved, too.
- In this way, may God be glorified.