Thursday, March 24, 2011

Japan, Jesus, and Judgment

The title of this post will likely remind you of comments made by Pat Robertson (American televangelist) after the Haiti earthquake. He posited that God allowed the Haiti earthquake as judgment over a "pact with the devil" made by Haiti's founders. He also attempted to explain reasons for God allowing tragedies such as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. He is certainly not the only one to make assertions like this, but he is one of the most prominent (You may read of a few of his infamous blunders here).

When tragedies happen, God-believing humans want to know why such things have occurred. We feel better if there is a specific & known reason for cataclysmic events. The recent earthquake and tsunami is Japan is one such event. We'd, frankly, like to know what God was thinking in allowing such a tragedy to occur.

It is a common thought that if a tragic event occurs, it must be a judgment of God. But that thought process is The Jews of Jesus' time also struggled with such questions, and they also wanted answers. 

Luke 13:1-6 recounts, "There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

There were two tragic events that these Jews were wrestling with. 1) Pilate apparently had some Galileans unjustly killed while they were offering sacrifices. 2) A tower in Siloam collapsed, killing 18 people.

While these 2 events were not immediately viewable on YouTube minutes after they occurred, the theological questions that Jesus deals with are the same ones that we deal with in light of Japan. Did this happen because they were being specifically judged? And, what should my response be?

Jesus' response was simple. Tragedies like this do not mean that they were worse sinners than you. You were not spared because of greater intrinsic holiness, since you are all sinners. God will not give humanity specific reasons for why most events like this occur, so don't bother speculating too much. Tragedies like this are meant to remind you, here and now, that the judgment of God is coming to everyone someday. We shouldn't spend time speculating why this happened; rather, we should spend time thinking of God's judgment. Therefore, repent and make yourself right with God.

We have many thoughts and emotions over tragedies like Japan, 9/11, Katrina, Haiti, etc. In addition to our thoughts, prayers, aid, and missions to the suffering, let us also soberly think of the judgment of God, a tsunami coming to all humanity not bound by geography. And also think of the lone way to escape this judgment: the grace and forgiveness of Jesus, bought for you on the cross.