“Terrible, isn’t it?” The cashier girl commented on the newspaper I was browsing, referring to the events in Japan this week.
“Yes it is … what do you think about it?” I asked. The girl pondered for a moment. “Seems like we’re out of harm’s way here in Sydney!”
Leaving the shop, I wondered how the rest of us are thinking about Japan’s earthquake, as we view the stream of dramatic video and photos from the devastation. Perhaps it’s a mixture of horror, sympathy, fascination, and a sense of perspective that our own troubles seem minor to the chaos over there.
Christians need to think beyond these initial feelings and be ready to respond with biblical truth. We’re hearing references to “Mother Nature” at work (which gives no comfort or even explanation) and the skeptics are spouting, “If there’s a God, why do these things happen?”
This challenge is an old one. In the great Lisbon, Spain earthquake which rocked Europe in 1755, the French cynic Voltaire wrote:
“Will you say: ‘This is result of eternal laws Directing the acts of a free and good God!’ … Did Lisbon, which is no more, have more vices Than London and Paris immersed in their pleasures? Lisbon is destroyed, and they dance in Paris!”
How can Christians respond? A few suggestions:
We should tremble. Earthquakes are neither random nor purposeless, but are reminders of sin’s curse on the earth and the weight of sin on the whole creation. All mankind is helpless and unable to save the planet or themselves. We should be moved to fear the Lord as our Creator. Psalm 114 declares:
“What ails you, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back? O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs? Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob … “
We must pray. We all have sinned and deserve God’s judgment, whether in sunny Sydney or Sendai. We all suffer from sin’s curse and no one lives outside of God’s mercy. We all need to turn to the Lord, who is sympathetic to our pain and grief, and is able to save.
A long time ago, the earth quaked when Jesus was crucified, as he who knew no sin became sin for us. He was crushed for our iniquities. There was another earthquake when Jesus rose again, victorious over sin and death. And the Lord warned there will be more earthquakes, before He returns to make all things new.
We can help. Jesus gave of himself to heal and help the distressed in our fallen world. We have the opportunity to let our light shine in a practical way, whether it be a donation to a humanitarian organisation or a gift to Christian agencies such as the OMF.