Saturday, January 16, 2010

God In Tragedy

In his letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul wrote, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18). The Gospel of Jesus Christ is offensive enough to people who don’t believe it. The claims that Christians make regarding Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation will offend some people. Some people think that the claims are just foolish. Some people just won’t care. To those of us who believe in the salvation that alone comes from Jesus Christ, it is the power of God. But the Gospel does not need any help in being offensive.

Recently, Pat Robertson made some unintelligent remarks regarding the tragic earthquake in Haiti. At some point, his P.R. people are going to realize that he is a liability and politely ask him to retire. In the mean time, there are people who are asking him to retire in a not so polite way, both Christian and non-Christian alike. The problem with remarks such as Robertson has recently made is that because he ascribes to a certain viewpoint and belief system, he ends up “becoming” a spokesman for all of the other people who hold that same viewpoint or belief system, regardless of whether or not they agree with his comments.

My first thought after watching the news after the Haiti earthquake was, “Come on! Doesn’t this country have enough problems?” Then when I heard that Pat Robertson had opened up his mouth to allow for his unintelligent musings to pour forth, I thought, “Come on! Don’t Christians have enough problems?” As I listened to the voice of the media and the public reacting to his comments, I did my best to keep quiet. The only thing that I had said was in the form of my Tweet/Facebook status which read, “God’s judgment on Christians is that Pat Robertson is still alive!” After a few more days to process the comments and really search Scripture, there are a few things I feel the need to say.

In Isaiah 40, the prophet speaks words of comfort to the people of God. The most famous portion of this chapter is the quote, “but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” But a little earlier in the chapter, Isaiah poses a few questions, “Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?”

It’s in our nature as human beings to want answers, especially when tragedy strikes. But sometimes, we won’t have answers and the only thing that we can do is reach out in love to the ones who are desperately seeking those answers. If we don’t have answers, we shouldn’t create them or make them up. What’s redemptive about that? We shouldn’t presume that we understand the mind of God better than every other human being around us, that’s Gnosticism. We shouldn’t put words in God’s mouth and presume that we have the prophetic gift. In fact, prophecy is more about telling what God will do rather than interpreting what God did.

While I make no apologies for the offensiveness of the Gospel, I do make apologies for people who make it more offensive than God ever intended. It has been incredible to turn on the TV or look on the internet and to see the amount of aid and support that is being sent to the country of Haiti in the midst of this tragedy. To me, that is the correct response. I wonder if Pat Robertson sent any support to Haiti before he made his remarks or if he simply spoke the “mind of God” before he really had a chance to think about it.

Whether you are or are not a follower of Jesus Christ, I would hope and pray that you would not judge Jesus by the stupid things that his followers sometimes do and say. Know that Pat Robertson does not speak for everyone. In fact, I wonder if he really speaks for anyone other than himself and a handful of other sadly misdirected folks. In the immortal words of Buzz Lightyear, he is “a sad, strange, little man” and he has my pity! Can God work in this situation? Of course he can. Did he cause this situation? I don’t think so.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:18-22, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” We live in a fallen world where tragedy strikes, not because God willed it, but because the world is fallen. The sin of Adam and Eve have subjected ALL of creation to frustration. We are fallen people in need of a savior because we can’t save ourselves and we live in a fallen world that needs redemption as much as we do.

God can use any means necessary to speak to his people. The Old and New Testaments are full of ways that God has gotten the attention of his people. While God has spoken through an ass before (Numbers 22), I don’t think that this is a case of history repeating itself!

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