Religion, Disaster, and Japan

Japan now wrestles with life, death, and disaster through the religious vehicles available to it. Less than 1% of the population is Christian, so most of the conversation will not be about Jesus. But, as someone asked me in church last Sunday, what are Christians supposed to think about God’s role in natural disasters?

Some Christians mistakenly think that non-Christians are somehow more susceptible to suffering because they are not watched over in the same way as Christians. This elitism fails to appreciate the plain biblical teaching that our fate does not reveal God’s favor (Ecc. 9:2, Mt. 5:45). Others attempt to point to some measure of sinfulness that provoked the wrath of some primeval, vengeful God, which again avoids the plain teaching of Scripture (Job 1:11, Jn. 9:3).

The reality is that natural disasters are simply the horrible, sad result of a fallen world. The world is broken, and it’s broken in every which way it can be. The Bible says that human beings have both corporately (Gen. 3:6) and individually (Rom. 3:23) rejected God. The result is that God lets us, to a certain degree, have our own way (Rom 1:24). He humbly steps back at our request. And consequently, all the world shows signs of its brokenness, not just our behavior, but the physical world itself. Natural disasters are a physical manifestation of the spiritual reality that we’ve told God to leave us alone. There’s no individual or local blame for such things, and Christians should never go looking to pin the responsibility on anyone. Everyone has pushed God away, and everyone suffers from a broken world.

What’s happened is that the world has been broken. God didn’t break it, we did. It’s broken down to its most elemental levels, in its DNA. And yet he loves us all the same. He loves us in our broken lives and in our broken world. Disasters are not a sign that God doesn’t care, only that he’s honored our request to let us have the world. Disasters are a sign that we broke the world. God gladly heals and gladly forms us into healing community. But we have to ask. And we have to respond.

If you’d like to donate to relief efforts in Japan, please support World Vision.

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