The bad news from Japan continues to roll in. For the last few days the media has played and replayed images of buildings shaking, a giant wave of muddy seawater, flattened towns, and an almost constant view of a fiery nuclear plant in the distance. It almost feels unprecedented. It is certain that Japan is dealing with its greatest crisis since the 1940’s as it copes with the fourth largest earthquake in recorded history, a giant tsunami with thirty-three foot waves, and a nuclear disaster. Almost as soon as it happened, familiar and unfamiliar voices in certain circles of the religious and secular media began to offer their opinion as this being the judgment of God.
It started on Saturday. WBNA Player Cappie Pondexter posted this statement on her twitter account: “What if God was tired of the way they treated their own people in there own country! Idk guys he makes no mistakes.” She later tweeted: “u just never knw! They did pearl harbor so u can’t expect anything less.” On Monday, political and cultural commentator Glenn Beck strongly hinted on his television show that this could be from God. “I’m not saying God is, you know, causing earthquakes – well I’m not not saying that either! What God does is God’s business, I have no idea. But I’ll tell you this – whether you call it Gaia or whether you call it Jesus, there’s a message being sent.” Later, David Yonggi Cho, minister of Yoido Full Gospel Church said, “Because the Japanese shun God in terms of their faith and follow idol worship, atheism, and materialism, it makes one wonder if this was not God’s warning to them.” I have watched a YouTube video recorded by a woman who calls herself a Christian praising God for the destruction. Unbelievable.
So why did the earthquake and tsunami happen? Why all the deaths to innocent children? Why all the suffering? The simple answer is: “We don’t know.” In this life, there are things that happen that we simply have no explanation for. Period. When we try to answer such questions, we are seeking answers to things that are beyond our limited scope of understanding.
I do know that God is not responsible for every bad thing that happens. In fact, God does not punish evil behavior with natural disasters any more than He rewards good behavior with success in life, perfect health, job, or a perfect marriage. Jesus said, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” Matthew 5.45.
If it were true that God were behind the events in Japan, which no one would call “Christian” nation, why did He not destroy some of the oldest and most sacred Buddhist temples? The only thing left standing in one town was a supermarket and Buddhist temple. If this were God executing His justice on a sinful and godless nation, wouldn’t the temple be the first thing God would take out? Wouldn’t the mere fact it was left standing assure the Buddhists that theirs is a valid religion?
Natural disasters are just that: natural disasters. Did God also punish New Zealand earlier this year when an earthquake happened to be centered in a place called Christchurch? Did God punish Chile and Haiti in earthquakes that happened in 2010? Is God behind every hurricane? Tornado? Blizzard? Lightning strike? Hardly. There are many events that happen in nature. Just because something happens does not automatically mean that God is behind it.
This is not a sign of the end of the world. Many point to Matthew 24.6-7 and claim that this is just one more piece of evidence that the end is just around the corner. These verses point to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and not the end of the world. The end may be near. It may not be. We do not know when Jesus will return (not even He knows) and there will be no signs pointing to His return, Matthew 24.36.
Those who blame God for the earthquake and tsunami view Him from a distorted viewpoint. God is not the bad person here. Instead of wiping them out with natural disasters, God holds out for the repentance of unbelievers. One day, His patience will run out and the world will end. Then, those who do not know God will be punished, 2 Peter 3.9-10; 2 Thessalonians 1.7-10. Our God is so good. He provides us with wonderful blessings. James wrote, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change,” James 1.17.
Instead of focusing on the negative, let’s focus on the positive. Our God has a mighty hand of protection. Could it not be argued that He protected Tokyo (population 36 million)? The city was shaken, but emerged with little damage. The devastation could be much, much worse. Despite the hyped media coverage, most of it is concentrated in a small portion in northeastern Japan. We could also praise God for the generous gifts and assistance that is pouring in from around the world. Would it not be more productive to look for how God is working through this disaster to bring glory to Himself?
Let’s be praying for those who are in Japan coping with this awful situation. Pray that survivors will be found in the rubble. Pray that those struggling without heat, water, and food will receive what they need. Finally, pray that all of us will be aware of the brevity and uncertainty of the human condition and be prepared should our death happen suddenly or the Lord return. Are you ready?
 Washington Post Blog on 03/16/11: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/under-god/post/glenn-beck-japan-earthquake-message-from-god/2011/03/15/ABKIw0W_blog.html
 David Yonggi, Senior Minister, Yoido Full Gospel Church. Quote from http://www.examiner.com/humanist-in-national/is-god-punishing-japan-for-atheism
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