So many questions are being asked right now - "Why did this happen? Why did a good God allow this to happen? Did God cause this earthquake?" As human beings, we seem to put God on trial every time disaster happens!
It is important for us as Christians to have a Biblical perspective on the situation - to get our own feet on rock because people all round us will want something solid to hold onto, not mush... As Christians we cannot allow our experience to warp our theology, ie. what we know about God from the Bible.
Romans 5:12 says that "sin came into the world ... and death through sin ..." That's the reality - we live in a world tainted by sin and the effects of sin. The earth groans under the effects of sin (Rom 8:22) - earthquakes being one result.
We also need to acknowledge the sovereignty of God over all things - He is in control and nothing happens by accident. Did God know this earthquake was going to happen? Yes! Did God allow it to happen? Yes! Did God make it happen? Yes! (Amos 3:6) "Does disaster come to a city, unless the Lord has done it?" Did God make it happen because the people of Christchurch deserve it? No! No!
When the tower of Siloam fell, killing 18 people (Matt 13:4-5), Jesus set aside any thoughts that people may have had that the people who were killed were worse people than others around them in Jerusalem. There was another reason for this tragedy and Jesus states it in verse 5 - "Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." This tragedy happened as a warning to people to turn to God in repentance and for forgiveness - while they could! The time for God's mercy was going to come to an end! "The very fact that you weren't killed," says Jesus, "is because God is rich in mercy and wants to give you an opportunity to still turn from your sin."
Through these tragedies, God is calling the world back to Himself - and to repentance. This is a call to the people of Christchurch, the people of New Zealand and all who see / hear of this tragedy in the world to turn from our godlessness - to God and not to presume on His mercy! How often do we stop and thank God for the peace and prosperity we enjoy the majority of the time? "God's mercy is displayed in that His wrath is withheld ... God is not into sparing people from pain but He is into bringing people to Himself." (John Piper - Radio interview Boxing Day tsunami). God mixes mercy and judgement!
Pain and crisis in our lives tends to focus our minds and lives on what is important - A natural disaster should point us to the God who has made the natural elements and should drive us to repent from our self-reliance and "God belittling neglect" (Piper) of worship, obedience and thanklessness.
How do we as Christians respond to this situation?
- "I don't blame God ... At the end of the day, there's trust and faith." (Wally Behan - former vicar at St. John's, Latimer). Wally is so right! We can only have trust and faith - trust in an all-powerful and sovereign God who is good and faith that God does not change and has promised good to all those who love Him and have put their trust in Him. Have Christians died in Christchurch? There may be some - but in God's wisdom, good will still come out of this! We may not see it now - through all the devastation - but we can trust in the God of the unseen! "Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, 'It is well, it is well with my soul.'" (Horatio Spafford)
- We can thank God for His mercy - that not more people were killed or injured
- We can actively pray for those affected
- We can roll up our sleeves and help in any way we can - monetary donations (automatic $20 donation to Red Cross Canterbury appeal by phoning 0900 33 200), by donating blood, by supporting families round us with relatives who have been affected.
- We can proclaim the Gospel message to those we come into contact with - lest anything catastrophic come our geographic way and people die without Christ. ( Gospel message )
- We can take comfort from Romans 8:35 "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?"
God is good and He is in complete control - He fully knows what He is doing! In His mercy, He is calling all men, women & children to repentance before He brings this whole world and everything on it, to an end - when there will be no more time to turn to Him! He is mixing His judgement with mercy!