Many people are now talking about the crisis that struck Japan just a week ago. I myself have been enthralled with http://www.cnn.com and http://www.cbc.ca as they share pictures and stories of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear emergency that is all converging in just one week! This has certainly been an extremely unfortunate week for all of those living in Japan.

In the midst of crisis times like this there is always much talk about why. We saw the same thing happen after Katrina, which devastated New Orleans, and especially after the 9/11 events in New York City. I remember being in seminary during the aftermath of Katrina and watching a taped message where a pastor declared that Katrina was God’s judgment rained down on “sin city” as it was called. My classmates and I remember thinking that this was perhaps a hasty remark; I cannot remember the last time any human being knew the mind of God clearly enough to assume that he/she knew God’s motivation for causing/watching/allowing (whatever word you use, although I prefer the latter) whatever calamity takes place on earth. Furthermore, if Katrina was indeed God’s judgment on New Orleans, why just that city? Why not Los Angeles too? Is there something inherently better in the people of LA? Why not the town that I live in or the town that you live in? Are we better than those in New Orleans?

Although I have not yet heard a pastor declare such a statement regarding Japan (I have not gone looking for a statement like this either), I have perused a few blogs this week that have indicated such a sentiment has indeed been expressed. So, on top of all that those in Japan have had to deal with (and indeed are still dealing with) we need to heap a boat load of offense on them saying that if they had been good enough little boys and girls the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster would have been directed to a more evil nation? Being “good enough” does not grant anyone favor with God anyways!

The religious demographic of Japan is primarily Shinto and Buddhist with a small minority of Christians and Muslims. Likely some will use this statistic to say, “see, I told you God was bringing calamity upon such a pagan nation!” This is somewhat inconsistent with our own Christian scriptures however. Consider these passages:

Matthew 5:45b “…He [God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Luke 13:4 “…or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?”

Job 1:20 “…The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

There does not seem to be an indication that human tragedy is focused exclusively on the just or the unjust, the repentant or the non-repentant. The fact is that we live in a time when the perfect kingdom of God is still just on the horizon (though visible) while the imperfect kingdom of humanity lingers. Thus, we see glimpses of both of these in our world: we observe sunrises and sunsets each day, we enjoy beauty, love, friends, family, we rejoice over new life created, we see lives changed in a moment and we see health miraculously restored to people both through medical intervention and other unexplainable sources (i.e. God). At the same time we observe relational strife, murder, abortion, rape, abuse, suffering…earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear disasters. The bible teaches that there is an approaching moment in time when there will be a complete merger between the kingdom of God and the kingdom that currently is (with the kingdom of God replacing and making all things new [Revelation 21]); until then however we must live in a world that experiences the reality of both kingdoms.

I wonder if there is a place on earth where disaster could strike and no one would attribute it to sinfulness? Canada…not likely. United States…been there and done that already. Israel? You might be able to make a case for God’s protection of his covenant people but yet we see that they too experience strife in this world also.

I put this topic out for discussion to a number of theology students at Vanguard College; I asked them what they would do if someone approached them in the foyer this Sunday asking about God’s role in the Japan disaster. One keen student suggested something that is somewhat refreshing for times like this.

Stephen Adam said:

“…we hear about so many people dying through this tragedy, but I wonder how many people God saved when he heard prayers. The news will focus mostly on the large number of dead and the destruction, but who knows about some small family that miraculously survived by Gods hand.”

Now there is something to think about. While it rains on the just and the unjust alike, we know that “…the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).

Continue to pray for the people of Japan so that they can recover well from this terrible disaster.

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