Yesterday, I came across some statements by one church and one fundamentalist pastor concerning their views on the reason for Hurricane Sandy. While these were the only two I saw, I am sure, unfortunately, that there are other groups and pastors who share this view. I can only shake my head in sadness at the view and picture these groups and individuals have of God.
Their view of God has truly never left the Old Testament; they still operate in the mode of God just waiting for someone to get out of line so he can deliver his wrath upon them. It really reminds me of the Pharisees and the religious leaders of Jesus’ day as well as those legalists in the early church. They can talk all they want about believing in God’s mercy, love and grace, but when push comes to shove, when things are boiled down to reality, what they truly believe in is a God who is all about wrath, judgment and condemnation for that is how they see him operating in this world. The problem with their view, really, is Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” That would include them. They still have their sin nature and if they want to believe in a God who is all about punishment, judgment and condemnation of people because of their sin, they need to jump in line because they still sin. They are unloving, ungracious and unmerciful to people just like the Pharisees were and Jesus really lit into them on numerous occasions. The reason I believe this to be true is because Jesus said that the very standard by which we judge people, we ourselves will be judged by God. Therefore, if their view is that God demonstrates his judgment on people for sin through things like storms, I suggest that they “hunker down” themselves because they also are not without sin and therefore God needs to judge their sin.
I am so glad that God deals with us in a different way than he did with the people of Israel as we read in the Old Testament. In Colossians 1:19-20, the Apostle Paul writes, “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile all things to himself, having made peace through the blood of his cross – through him, whether the things on the earth or the things in heaven.” In addition, Peter writes, “The Lord does not delay regarding the promise, as some count delay, but is long-suffering toward you, not intending that any perish but that all advance to repentance.”
These two passages tell me a great deal about how God currently relates to his creation and us. He views us through reconciliation, peace and EXTREME patience. God has chosen, for now, to set aside his wrath in order to draw people to himself. He has declared this time starting with Jesus’ death and resurrection to today and until Jesus’ returns as a time of peace between him and his creation. He has done this because he desires to have all come to repentance. It’s kinda hard to do that if you are dead because he sent a storm to kill you because he was done waiting. And, unless God is like Hitler (and of course he isnt), you don’t attack someone with whom you have declared peace. The way God related to people in the Old Testament demonstrated that people could not do, in and of themselves, what was necessary in order to have a relationship with God that would bring eternal life. That’s why God sent Jesus so that he would do what we could not, so that we could have that relationship.
Devastating storms and other tragic events occur in this world not because of God’s judgment or condemnation, but because of how the world has been affected, marred and twisted due to the presence of sin and evil in it. Just like a dog will be obedient to but cower in the presence of a master who beats it into compliance, if God’s wrath, judgment and condemnation is what is used as a way to bring people to God, with rare exceptions, people won’t be drawn to love God but only fear him like that dog. Why would someone want to draw near or love a God would is all about punishment in order to gain obedience, compliance and love? A relationship based upon true love is voluntary, not coerced.
God realizes this. I bet he wishes those who trumpet storms like Hurricane Sandy as his judgment would realize it as well.