Earthquakes, tsunamis, storms and floods! How do God’s people respond?

By Rev. Dale Mohr

What is the appropriate response to tragedy; to innocent suffering and death? To the more than 200,000 killed in Haiti? To the hundreds of thousands killed in the 2004 tsunami? To the victims of the latest suicide bomb attack? Or the ongoing earthquakes and aftershocks in Chile?

After tragedies, either manmade or natural, some point the finger at all those “sinners” out there who brought this calamity on themselves. It happened after the earthquake in Haiti when a preacher said the Haitians had sold their souls to the devil when they rebelled against their French masters. It happened at 9/11. And it happens today. We try to read the headlines like tea leaves, trying to figure out “what God is doing and trying to tell us.”

The Christian response to sudden and tragic death—whether political, religious, man made or natural— is repentance. To repent is to re-think. The word literally means to come to a different mind— recognizing that death, even tragic death, isn’t the worst thing that could happen to you. Death is the sign that things are not right between God and us. “The wages of sin is death,” St. Paul tells the first-century Christians in Rome.

Repentance is the end of all questions and of all judgments. Judgment rests with God, not us. The issue is God’s justice and His mercy. His justice says “the wages of sin is death” or “the soul that sins is the one who will die,” as the prophet Ezekiel warned. Yet God’s mercy reaches out with the promise that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.”

God hates sin and kills the sinner speaks of His justice. God forgives sin and accepts the sinner because His Son Jesus Christ was punished and died for our sin demonstrates His mercy.

Repentance doesn’t mean “clean up your act.” Repentance means to take a different perspective on things—on God and on yourself.

So many think people should get what they deserve. But stop and think. Do you really want God to dish out His justice upon you? If you think that’s a good idea, maybe you haven’t spent enough time with the Ten Commandments. Look into their mirror, and ask yourself, “If this is God’s standard, do I really want to get what I deserve?” Hell is where everyone gets what they deserve. Martin Luther commented that we should not be surprised there was a flood in Noah’s time. We should rather be surprised there isn’t a flood every day!

In God’s mercy Jesus Christ got what we deserve. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God,” St. Paul told the Christians in Corinth

To repent means we cease and desist from justifying ourselves. We no longer try to make our case before the bar of divine justice. Once we saw God as judge and ourselves as good, upright, religious people deserving justice from a just God. But now in repentance, our minds are changed; our viewpoint is changed. We see God as Saviour and ourselves as sinners seeking mercy. And we trust the promise of God in the death and resurrection of Jesus, that by the blood of Jesus sinners are forgiven and the unrighteous are justified.

Look at Jesus in His awful death. Consider the cruelty, the injustice, and His suffering. Was He a worse offender than all the others? No. He was innocent and perfect—without sin. For our sake, in our place, for us and for our salvation, He became our sin. He embodied our sin in His sinless body, so that we, baptized into His death and believing in His Name, might become children of God.

When you hear of tragic death on the news, or disaster hits dangerously close to home, there’s only one thing you can do. Repent. Confess your sin. Seek the Lord’s mercy. Be forgiven.

Rev. Dale Mohr is a retired pastor living in Winnipeg. He is currently serving as pastor to vacant congregations in Winnipeg and Kenora, Ontario.

Posted By: Matthew Block
Posted On: March 13, 2010
Posted In: Insight,

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