Disaster, God’s Judgment, & Our Response

It goes without fail when a natural disaster hits, someone somewhere proclaims it as God’s judgment.

Last night, I read an article being passed around on Facebook declaring that Hurricane Isaac is God’s judgment on New Orleans for its sin, in particular homosexuality. The author stated that Katrina was a call to repentance and, having not repented, Isaac is God’s judgment. (see full article)

It’s cringeworthy.

Who knows the mind of God, but God?

Christians need to be wary in proclaiming and pronouncing God’s judgment.

God is the God of mercy and, yes, justice. But is every natural disaster, every tragedy the voice of God’s displeasure and wrath? I don’t think so.

When I hear people single-out a certain area or group of people who are suffering as a sign of their lack of repentance I can’t help but think of Jesus.

The man who knew no sin and yet suffered the worst. 

I hear him answer the question, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 

“It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:1-3)

There is death and there is sin and there is pestilence, but God is not eager to send judgment.

I think of His great affection for his people,

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?

How can I hand you over, O Israel?
How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim?
My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.

Hosea 11:8

Sin entered the world through our first father Adam and since then, because of his sin and our own, mankind has suffered.

It’s the clinging to cause-and-effect that gets me. The idea that if I obey God, then he will bless me, but if I don’t obey then bad things will happen to me.

And I wonder just how far this type of thinking takes people?

If someone is injured in a car accident, is it because they had some hidden sin?

Did my mother-in-law get cancer and die because she was unrepentant and displeased God?

Are babies born with abnormalities because of some sin of their own or their parents?

If someone is raped is it a pronouncement of guilt?

Sin is in need of repentance. We all should lay low below the cross.

When I hear with pointed fingers, “Look at God’s judgment on them!” I see the Pharisee praying,

‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’

The pointed fingers, the ‘I’m so glad I’m not a sinner like them’ attitude reeks of pride. It divides. It preaches a gospel of death—legalism that proclaims justification by works.

It lacks compassion.

What did Jesus do when he saw the people? He looked at them and felt compassion for them, like sheep without a shepherd (Mt. 9:36).

What did Jesus do when the rich man asked what he needed to do for eternal life? He looked at him and loved him (Mk. 10:17-22).

When we see the wearing of this fallen world, our hearts should be like the tax collector beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

We should be humbled. We should pray. Pray for a humble, loving, righteousness.

We should seek to show the same compassion, grace, and love by which we were washed.

Because aren’t we all sheep that have gone astray?

 

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Good, Christian Apathy

Our pastor tells of an unreached people group. The Malay, I believe. He talks about how they don’t know Jesus and maybe someone in our midst would be called to go. I look down and shift in my seat. I don’t want it to be me.

I remember hearing my old pastor speak in a broken voice, tears in his eyes, hand covering his heart, “There are roads to these places! And they don’t know Jesus, because no one’s cared to take it to them.”

There are roads! There are roads!

I’m comfortable in my life. What I do, most days, is easy. I take care of my family and enjoy my creative pursuits. And even though, as our season has changed and I’ve lost some of my conveniences, I’m comfortable.

We talk at community group about gospel-centered discipleship. We talk about how evangelism is a natural extension of discipleship. It isn’t a “have to,” something to be marked off the “I’m a Good Christian” checklist, but an outpouring of one who has been set free.

And I’m silent.

Someone quotes atheist Penn Jillette,

How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?

I don’t want to be hated. I don’t want the ridicule. That’s why I stay silent.

This morning my husband mentions our goal of getting involved in the community, how it hasn’t really happened yet, and asks what can we do to change that.

“Umm…” I want to avoid the conversation.

I’m a failure at making conversation and getting to know people. I may be on the narrow path, but sometimes I stray to the broader way. I like easy.

I want to be someone different. I really do.

But it’s not easy.

My heart breaks at the stories and brokenness of sex trafficking, at a culture that thinks it’s okay to buy and sell sex–prostitution, porn, trafficking, clothes, media…all of it. I ask how can you change such a culture?

I just want to cry and scream and ask, “How?”

How can people say this is okay? How can people know this exists and do nothing. How?

I sit at my computer and type, eagerly looking forward to a bowl of ice cream. My littlest boy sits on my lap tickling my face and giving me wide, open-mouthed kisses. His laughter is infectious joy. I hope he knows this joy always.

I’m overwhelmed at the suffering. I’m overwhelmed at the need for freedom. And, worst, I’m overwhelmed by the task of emancipation.

I ask myself, “How?” I don’t even know where to start.

My heart is scared of change. I’ve believed the lie of comfortable and convenient.

I struggle for the next words, because I don’t know…

Today there’s no tidy conclusion, no epiphany. Just a heart heavy with knowing and a will struggling to change.

 

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When You Want to Change the World

If I were to give this summer a name, it’d be The Thinking Summer.  My head has been a constant jumble of hypothetical situations, evaluating life choices, and asking questions. Big questions.

After my husband and I made the decision to leave Louisville, we began talking about our regrets. All the things we had expected to do and how we had hoped our lives would take shape when we first settled into Louisville. Toddlers, pregnancies, full-time jobs, and part-time school changed most of that mixed with our own lack of motivation and excuses.

As we made packing lists, we made mental notes of what we wished we’d done differently. How we wished we had gotten into deeper fellowship within our community group(s) and been more involved in our church. We talked about how we had hoped to get to know our neighbors and not just the Christian ones.

I talked about how I wanted to get involved in local ministries organizations, like Necole’s Place and Scarlet Hope, that come alongside women to support, encourage, comfort, and share the hope of Jesus and how I didn’t follow through.  I put in a volunteer application for Necole’s Place, but when no one contacted me I left it at that.

As our moving day grew closer, I began reading through the epistles noting the way the church interacted and cared for each other along the way. And I noticed just how little my own life, and much of the church I saw, did not reflect what was written in those letters.

Would moving be a new opportunity to peel back layers and truly share each others joys and burdens other than the 2 hours at community group?

We decided this move would be an opportunity to change our lives.

We talk about living sustainable and self-sufficient. As we pull out our copies of Encyclopedia of Country Living, The Backyard Homestead, and the cob house dream gets a dusting, we end up on topics like buying products from fair trade, fair labor, and slave free companies. Which has brought up even more conversations on the conflicting demand for low cost products and jobs in America.

{I told you my mind is a swirling melting pot of thoughts and ideas.}

I made a solo trip to the beach, pulling my novel out of the dusty corners and giving it a well-deserved revision. As I’ve sat to meld a life out of words, a quiet passion rises in me…getting louder and louder with each day.

This work in progress is molded by forced prostitution. As I write and create this world and its women, I am overwhelmingly burdened knowing that forced prostitution and sex trafficking are very real. While I’m delving into my character’s mind, I very aware that across the world there are women and children being forced, drugged, and imprisoned to have sex to fill someone else’s lust and pockets.

I can’t just write about it.

I have to do something. And when I wake up at night and pray for those facing the horrors, sometimes I cry out, “God, you could stop it all if you wanted to. You could make the hearts of every trafficker and John repentant. You could do it. Just end it.”

But then I hear the words,

“What if I want to end it through you?”

I watch documentaries, read articles, hear stories, and research statistics and organizations like the International Justice Mission, The A21 Campaign, Love146, and others.

We don’t have the extra money to give to those already working for freedom. If we did we would.

For now I’ve taken up my needle and thread to weave words of hope and pray as each stitch pulls over and under. I tell myself, Maybe if I make enough of these I can sell them and donate the profits to someone already fighting the good fight.

But I don’t want to be content being the far away change. Not anymore.

Turns out Charlotte, North Carolina, just a 20-30 minute drive from our new town, is ranked 8th in the US for trafficking. With multiple highways and interstates, Charlotte is an east coast hub for trafficking and a hotspot between Washington, DC and Atlanta. I’m learning about local organizations working to educate people and stop trafficking.

This is where I may go off the deep end. Even though the US is a primary destination for sex trafficking, there are few aftercare programs for rescued victims–domestic or foreign–of sex trafficking.

So I crazy-wonder,

What would it take to open up a residential aftercare facility for those rescued from sex trafficking?

I told you I might be going off the deep end.

This is the point friends and family begin to call and say, “Now, now, you’re getting ahead of yourself. You two just need to settle down, buy a house, and set aside some money to send your kids to college.”

Eh. I’m not so sure the American dream is where it’s at.

We’re out to change our lives one uncomfortable, awkward step at a time.

And maybe, just maybe, we’ll change the world the world in the process.

 

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