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I made the comments below in the wake of hurricane Katrina. Given the nightmarish suffering that’s occurring in Haiti at the moment (and some notorious commentary that’s floating about on the subject), it seemed like a good idea to repost them.

It bothers me greatly that the Christian voices that seem to trumpet the loudest in times of tragedy are those who proclaim (and seem to relish) the arrival of God’s judgment in the likes of disasters like Katrina. I recently preached a sermon on Luke 13 that deals with this very issue. Jesus cites two examples of suffering or catastrophe where people were killed by human agency or accidental means. He says to his audience in verses 3 and 5, “Do you think that the people who suffered these fates are greater sinners or worse culprits than everyone else? I tell you, no; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” What He is saying is this: 1) Don’t assume that God metes out judgment in every instance of disaster or personal calamity, 2) by extension, don’t assume that you are more righteous than those who suffer calamity, and 3) as a corrollary to number 2, don’t assume that you are escaping judgment just because disaster hasn’t befallen you.

Did God judge New Orleans by sending Katrina? It’s not beyond the realm of possibility, nor is it without biblical precedent. God is love, but He is also judge, and he does bring the nations to account for their deeds. But Luke 13 indicates that Christians ought to refrain from being so glib in their pronouncements of gloom and doom. The locus of the Church’s ministry in such times ought to be in reaching out with the love, care, and compassion of Christ — not in smug proclamations of judgment from the comfort of an easy chair.

Ever heard of Jonah, folks? You know, the guy who wanted God to fry those brutal, savage, imperialistic Assyrians? Did God allow him to just sit back and wait for Him to destroy Nineveh? Or did He send Jonah in mission to them in hopes that they would repent so they could be spared? And what did Jonah learn in the end — that God enjoys laying waste to entire cities, or that He’d rather spare them? Is God pleased when his people are happy about or hopeful for the destruction of non-Christians? Or would he prefer us to be motivated by His heart for compassion and rescue and reach out to unbelievers?


aka The MonT-SteR