Grace and Disaster

By Hal Lindsey
Thousands of Texans struggled for their lives against the flood waters of Hurricane Harvey. And, as they did, a University of Tampa sociology professor blamed the disaster on cosmic retribution against Texans.  Why?  Because so many of them voted Republican.
Kenneth Storey was fired after tweeting, “I don’t believe in instant Karma but this kinda feels like it for Texas.  Hopefully this will help them realize the GOP doesn’t care about them.”
People responded that the good were suffering, too.  But Storey doubled down.  He wrote, “Well, the good people there need to do more to stop the evil their state pushes. I’m only blaming those who support the GOP there.”
He later issued what sounded like a heartfelt apology.  But his initial response illustrates the revival of pagan superstition across all layers of our society.  A few decades ago, most Americans had never heard of “karma.”  Today, they automatically blame every bad thing on “bad karma.”
Christians believe God judges societies as well as individuals for sin.  But does that mean we should look at the disaster in Texas as a sign of Texans’ sin?  Should we see Harvey as God’s retribution against Texas?  According to Jesus, the answer is a resounding, “No!”
Some people came to Him one day and told Him about a terrible thing that had happened to a group of Galileans — people “whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” (Luke 13:1 NASB)
Jesus didn’t point out the obvious evil of Pilate’s actions.  Everyone could see that. Instead, He addressed an issue few understood.  He said, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this fate?  I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-5 NASB)
The disaster at the tower in Siloam was obviously well-known to Jesus’ listeners.  In those days, if a snake bit a man, people assumed the man was guilty of some terrible sin and was receiving due retribution.  After suffering through a shipwreck and finding safety on the island of Malta, the Apostle Paul was judged in this way.
Acts 28:3-4 says, “When Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand.  And when the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they began saying to one another, ‘Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, and though he has been saved from the sea, justice has not allowed him to live.’” (NASB)
Paul simply shook the snake back into the fire, and went about his work.  When he didn’t die, or even have swelling in his arm, the natives decided he was a god.  Their superstition took them from one extreme to the other — and they were wrong both times.
On another occasion, the Lord’s disciples saw a man who had been blind since birth. Following the thinking of their day, they asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” (John 9:2 NASB)
Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was in order that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3 NASB)  And Jesus healed the man.
Jesus made it crystal clear that we are not to judge people (or their parents) just because something bad happened.  The world is not as God made it.  It is fallen.  And in such a world, terrible things can happen.  Don’t point the accusing finger at a suffering soul just because he or she is suffering.  To some degree, we all suffer because of the world we live in and its fallen nature.
You would think the old superstitions would have died by now.  They have not.  Even Christian people sometimes point to a man in a wheelchair and proclaim that, his faith is insufficient, or there is sin in his life — otherwise God would heal him.  Don’t usurp God’s position as judge.  Have love and mercy on those who are afflicted.  Don’t feel superior just because you’re not in a wheelchair, or because your house did not flood.
As I pointed out earlier, among non-Christians, it’s even worse.  People who know nothing else about Eastern religions have fully embraced the idea of karma.
The old superstitions have not gone away.  But among followers of Jesus, they must.  We, of all people, should address these disasters with compassion — knowing that we are ill-equipped to judge.
It is important to note, though, that Jesus did not say God’s judgment never falls.  In fact, He repeatedly said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
He urged them to stop feeling superior because of their health and seeming security. Those things can fail.  If health is the sign of your moral standing, live long enough and it will testify against you.  Instead of feeling good about yourself because you think you deserve your good health, Jesus said to examine yourself, and repent. 
Our prayers continue to go out for the people in all the areas damaged by Harvey, and especially for the families of those whose lives have been lost.  We urge everyone to give to one of the many ministries geared toward disaster relief.
Remember, “Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5 NASB)
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