Truthfully, I can’t believe that I’m compelled to write about this subject! It boggles my mind that there are Christian people, pastors, and celebrities like Kirk Cameron who are making statements about the recent hurricanes as teaching us a lesson or even worse as God’s judgment against either those cities or against a particular country. They start with God being in control over everything including nature and then move quickly to a conclusion that God is deliberately steering these storms to specific places because of their sins. I’m so disheartened by this poor appropriation of scripture as well as baffled that people talking this way don’t see how they are confirming all the negative opinions that some people have about Christianity and God.
Here is my simple and short answer. No doubt, in a way we cannot comprehend fully, God is all powerful. Yet, creation (including human beings) is no longer operating at God’s exact whim. Otherwise, creation would not need redemption which Paul says in Romans 8:19-23 creation clearly does. “We know that the whole of creation has been groaning in travail.” Our world is broken. There are tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and earth quakes. To say that God is whipping these disasters up specifically to humble or punish people or places is naïve and guilty of what Jesus warns us against in Matthew 18 of “putting a stumbling block before one of these who believe in me.” Really? I’m supposed to look in the face of a mother or father whose child was killed in the earthquake in Mexico City and tell them, “Well, your child was in the wrong place at the wrong time because God had to punish or humble your city for its disobedience.” Anyone speaking that way ought to take Jesus’ warning about causing people to stumble to heart. Finally, and most importantly, to say that God somehow is steering storms to specific places to punish, is to empty the cross of its significance and power. Let me simply ask this question to all who believe God uses nature to intentionally and purposefully, meter out judgment on people: If Jesus’ death on the cross saved us from the wrath of God (Romans 5:9), why would God still need to use other means to punish us? If you say God is using a storm to punish people, you are saying the cross of Christ was not sufficient to deal with our sin. Period. End of story.
Should brokenness of creation and a hurricane give everyone pause and along with God’s Word move us to repentance? Certainly! Of course! Any day could be our last. But we must never cross the line and say that God is purposefully singling out a city or individuals for a lesson or punishment via a storm, earthquake, etc. Jesus died for the sins of all on the cross. What we need to do is extend God’s love and compassion to people who are suffering. We need to proclaim the Gospel that we are put in a right relationship with God via faith in the gift and work of Christ Jesus. How tragic that some, well meaning as they may be, put themselves in the place of God and make statements that the God who raised Jesus is running around steering storms to specific places. If that were true, given we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), one giant hurricane should come and swallow us all up. I call on all Christian pastors and laity speaking this way to repent, let God be God, stop causing people to stumble, and stop belittling the significance of the cross and resurrection.
Rev. Bill Crabtree
Pastor, Silverdale Lutheran Church