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My Christian Perspective on the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

March 17, 2011

The tragedy in Japan is difficult to completely comprehend. The scale of the destruction and 4-part tragedy (thus far: earthquake, tsunami, nuclear power plant leaks, volcano in southern Japan) are far more difficult to comprehend if they are only read about – video adds much to our understanding and sympathy for the people of Japan. However, many of the videos that are spreading around the Internet are quite disturbing, like a live-action Hollywood disaster movie, and literally look unreal.

My own YouTube playlist of videos from this tragedy are here: http://www.youtube.com/user/jjuenglish#grid/user/357BBD672502E70B

My wife read the stories, and watched some of the videos, and immediately began feeling depressed. It’s difficult not to, the videos are quite disturbing. Many people are like her and after watching videos like these cannot think about or focus on anything. Many people question tragedies like this, question existence itself, life on Earth. Many people question God. Many people either give up their faith, or become suddenly religious. This post on CNN’s Belief Blog explains how Japan will probably religiously deal with the tragedy – by performing many religious rituals: http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/03/14/how-japans-religions-confront-tragedy/

Dr. Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary warns about getting too carried away with religiousity in the wake of a tragedy like this: “Disasters like this often bring out the most reckless forms of theologizing. The earthquake and tsunami are indeed horrifying reminders that this world shows all the marks of God’s judgment on sin, and that the whole creation groans under the weight of sin.

Nevertheless, Jesus warned his disciples about drawing the conclusion that a natural disaster can be traced to the sins of those who directly suffer its effects (Luke 13:1-5). God causes the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). We must remember that when we read the headlines and see the images of a disaster wherever it may happen.”

http://www.albertmohler.com/2011/03/14/when-the-earth-moves-pray-for-the-people-of-japan/

From Luke, Jesus basically says “Do you think that these people who suffered from tragedy were worse sinners or more guilty than the rest of you? No! But you too must repent, or perish.” So, we can’t jump to any conclusions that any kind of natural disaster is a direct consequence of the sins of the people affected or God’s punishment and judgment on them.

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This all reminds me of another story of similar destruction in the Bible: Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). In this story, God really did destroy the cities in judgment by raining down fire and brimstone from the sky. (There is even some evidence that might help to show how an ancient asteroid could have caused this destruction: http://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2010/12/flashback-asteroid-destroyed-sodom-and.html).

However, one thing of particular note in this story is how Abraham talked to God before the destruction of the cities (Genesis 18). God told Abraham he was going to destroy the cities, but Abraham pleaded with God not to follow through with his plan:

23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

33 When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

So, the thing of note here is that in the face of this destruction and tragedy – before it struck – Abraham prayed for the cities, his neighbors. He pleaded with God to be merciful for the sake of the few righteous (turns out there were probably only 3, Lot and his daughters who escaped – his wife looked back and became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:15-26)).

Then we also must pray for Japan, our neighbors, as Abraham did then for his. We must plead with God to be merciful, and to open their eyes to His truth. In the wake of such tragedy, many people will be searching for truth, and for meaning in life. And just as God listened to Abraham’s earnest prayers, so we too can maintain hope that God will listen to ours, and he may even be persuaded by our earnest prayers (Abraham talked God down from total destruction, to sparing the city for the sake of 50, to sparing the city for the sake of 10).

It’s time to prayer fervently that God softens hard hearts and opens doors for His missionaries. Many people, especially those who have no apparent need of God, don’t meet Him until they hit rock bottom. Who knows if this tragedy won’t bring hope to Japan then. This may be a prime  opportunity to send witnesses in to this lost and hurting nation. Come on Korea! You’ve done much for world missions. Now your next door neighbor needs you earnestly – your prayers most of all.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 17, 2011 9:30 am

    Well-worded thoughts! Thanks for taking the time to do so. More Christians need to be reminded of this….and not be so fast to proclaim tragedy as God’s judgment.

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