By Ninos Hadjirousou
As a Mediterranean/European person, i have never seen nor experienced a hurricane. This time, these past weeks, i have. Since my move to the Dominican Republic people have been telling me to be aware of the coming hurricane’s. The first one was Irma. I am based in Santo Domingo which was not affected by Irma. Yet in the north of the country, there was some damage done. But even more in the other neighbouring island around the Caribbean and then up in the US/ Florida. I was told to be kept safe. Not knowing what to expect, i did as i was told. At this moment i am experiencing the powerful winds of Maria and it is strong indeed. It has already cause much of a problem for the people in Santo Domingo and i can imagine more is happening up in the North of the island. But the sad part is that while H Maria has destroyed parts of Puerto Rico and Dominica, Mexico had a powerful earthquake. As i read the reports, it is said that a large number of people died from that earthquake.
Now there is a very important question which i am sure comes into people’s minds. It is the case for God. What is the biblical response for such events?
The response must never be ‘we can command the wind to dissipate and stop’ because there are some who have come to believe that we can do things as such, for they say, we have the authority and dominion mandate to do so. Friends, people who say such bad theology need not be taken seriously at all by any reasonable student of the Bible. Rather, the response that we must say to ourselves is one that must lead us unto humility.
When i read Luke 13:1-5, it strikes me that the Lord was not finding any excuse for the catastrophe that happened in Galilee or in Jerusalem. Rather He simply said that unless ye repent, ye will likewise perish. That was His response to people who began to find reasons why things happened to others. Even some today suggest that it is because of karma that bad things happen. Bad things happen to bad people. And this has always been the mindset of the Jews in Jesus day. In John 9:1 his disciples saw a man blind since birth and the question that is raised is ‘whose sin is it, that made him blind?’ ‘is it his own sin? or his parents?’. And here also Luke 13 it is the same problem. The Jews were saying that what the people experienced in Galilee was because they must have done something wrong to make God allow this to happen. Perhaps they are cursed. But when i look at such words, i think of Jobs friends who tried to make him believe that it was his sin that caused him to loose everything and to suffer. But the Bible says no such thing. In fact, God does not allow such catastrophes to happen because people those got affected by it are actually bad people. That would imply that some are actually good people. Yet Scripture is clear when it says that we all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). So how must this bring to us a sense of humility?
Christ’s answer was “i tell you… nay but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish”(Luke 13:5).
Christ does not give any excuse for the catastrophe. He does not even say that these people were sinners. He says ‘repent’ or else ‘ye will be destroyed also’. This ought to give us, as Christians a sense of humility. It must make us consider the facts. That we are safe because God has placed us in a place far from danger. We are blessed and we are shown mercy by him. The question is: why didn’t the hurricane hit me and hit others? We all deserve the justice of God. We all deserve His punishment. Christ says unless you repent ‘ye shall all likewise perish”.
For man, the reality of a problem is not found in what happens on this earth the here and now. Christ is not referring to the dangers of this world. He is not saying for us to be aware of the dangers of this world. Rather, when He mentions repentance, that implies that He is referring to one’s eternal destiny. There relationship to God. Have they sinned against Him? Will they be judged justly on the last day? Are they rebellious against God? For the unbeliever, this is a crucial question to ask: do i know God? And how can i be saved from the wrath to come? This must convict those who are far from danger to think of themselves as men and women, who have been spared one more day from the wrath that they deserve. And the condemnation that they deserve. For they are no better than other people from other nations. I have escaped Irma and i have been spared from being hit by Maria, not because i am any better or have a goodness in me that made God have favour on me. Not at all, i am like the rest (Romans 3:23). But the only difference, is that whether, as a Christian, i live or die, i will be with Christ. Because salvation and forgiveness of all sins was purchased by Christ’s sacrificial life and death on the cross. I am granted by Him eternal security and nothing will separate me from that. But for those who have not received what i have, makes me concerned for them.
For the Christian, trials are a blessing.They encourage him to pray more and to depend on the Lord for help and guidance. It is placed there in order that our faith maybe perfected in Christ (James 1:1-4). If he dies, he goes home where the Lord is. So the theology of trials is that God allows them for our good, for our sanctification (Romans 8:28, 1 Thessalonians 4:3).
But for the unbelievers, there is the need for redemption. The more one hears the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, the better it will be for them, no matter what circumstances they may be in. And no matter what part of the world they are from. Thinking over what matters for eternity, meeting before your maker, is far more important and crucial, than anything else in this world.