Tag Archive: New Orleans

In response to my recent post regarding the disaster in Japan I was challenged by a personal communication from a reader, which stated that while they agree with the Scriptures and thoughts presented they couldn’t help but wonder how the principle of sowing and reaping applies to global disasters such as this and others. If we as a human race sow immorality, spiritual ignorance (or rejection), humanism, paganism…can we not then expect to reap destruction from this?

In my regular bible reading today I just completed the final chapters of Deuteronomy (I’m a little behind in my attempt to read the entire bible by May, but I’m trying). Throughout this section we read of Moses passing his mantle of leadership on to Joshua as the Israelites prepare to enter into the promised land. Part of this ‘passing of the torch’ involves a reminder of God’s law; specifically, the Israelites can expect to enjoy peace and prosperity in their promised land if they continue to adhere to the law of God. On the other hand, if they depart from the law of God and devote themselves to pagan idols and ways of life they can expect to experience curses and indeed have their promised land removed from them. This was not an empty threat; this is actually what happens when the Israelites become enslaved to Babylon for decades. Certainly this principle of sowing and reaping was active in the Old Testament.

What about the New Testament? We see the principle of sowing and reading taught by Paul in the letter to the Galatians.

Galatians 6:7-8 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

Here are my thoughts as this pertains to our present world. Death, decay and disaster are all a part of the human experience of life because of decisions humanity has made while living in this world. It is a fundamental matter in the Christian worldview that the present imperfection experienced is as a result of humanity’s inherent sinfulness (the explicit desire to do my own things my own way) and the fact that we are reaping what we have sown from the very beginning time when sin entered the world. This is not a condition that will persist forever; however, it is a present reality.

Therefore, within the world that we live I believe that our corporate immorality and failure to acknowledge God does merit punishment and judgment; we reap what we sow. If we can really take care of ourselves completely and provide all that is necessary for humanity to experience abundant life…perhaps God allows us to try it on our own sometimes. Our inherent smallness and inability to hold everything together on our own is evident in disasters like we saw in Japan and New Orleans and in the sociological/political/religious chaos that led humanity to destroy itself in the 9/11 attacks in the US.

What makes me uncomfortable is when we start to attribute ‘blame’ (for lack of a better word) for these disasters on specific people as opposed to recognizing that it is a symptom of humanity’s ignorance. The ‘blame’ (again, for lack of a better word) lies in humanity itself and not in the individuals who are affected by these disasters. Humanity sows seeds and reaps what we have sown; in the process of this the lives of the righteous and the unrighteous are affected.

Matthew 24:6-8: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”

Japan: God’s Wrath?

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.