Published January 15, 2010
Each time there is mass devastation due to acts of nature in areas of the world there is discussion as to whether or not these are acts of God’s judgment. It happened on the heels of Katrina, amidst the devastating tsunami that hit southeast Asia and most recently with the 7.0 earthquake that brought Haiti to a place of unspeakable loss.
The concept originates in the Old Testament, where in the book of Genesis we read of a worldwide flood that came upon the earth as people turned their backs on God. A similar theme can be found in the book of Exodus as God sends plagues upon Egypt because of the disobedience of the Pharaoh and the enslavement of the Hebrew people. Such biblical accounts -- that come on the heels of unspent opportunities to repent -- are sobering and lead to the question of whether or not we are experiencing such acts of judgment today.
When Katrina was flooded some people pointed to the decadent offerings of Mardi Gras and the French Quarters of New Orleans. When the tsunami hit southeast Asia people noted the severe persecution of people of faith in these nations. Haiti has been described, by some, as a place where the practice of witchcraft is prevalent.
That God is Holy is true. That God would exclusively want to exact a toll on Haiti or any other people group is inconclusive. To hold to such a conviction is to maintain that a tornado that wipes out a church in Oklahoma is also God’s judgment. To point at Haiti and not the hearts of all mankind is a gross error.
That God is love is true. The Scriptures teach us that to love God is our primary goal and that loving God can never be detached from loving our neighbor. A God of love compels us to take responsibility for those in need. Jesus identified with the vulnerable when he declared that what we do on behalf of those in need we do unto him. His words stripped his hearers of all rights to judge and placed upon them a clear mandate to offer themselves in loving service.
Haiti calls into question the role of people of faith. It is in moments of crisis that the meaning and purpose of the church is best defined. The age-old question found in Genesis, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” must be answered with a resounding, “Yes!” We need to recognize and respond to our global brothers and sisters. Haiti is in need and lest we misrepresent God and his love we should act upon his commands as found in scripture, to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Rev. Bill Shuler is pastor of Capital Life church in Arlington, Virginia and a frequent contributor to the Fox Forum.