May 2 Esight, 2011

Or those nineteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they

were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? (Luke 13.4)As I look at the devastation left in the wake of last week’s storms in the South, and I read the various comments by believers and unbelievers alike in current online news forums, my heart breaks. It doesn’t break so much from the accusations being made against God by those who are either hurting or simply don’t understand. Though these are sad, it simply confirms that, as believers, we need to do a better job of explaining why things like this happen. But my heart largely breaks because of (warning) the relational stupidity and lack of sensitivity I witness in the responses of those who claim to be believers. There are four puzzle pieces I would like to put together for you this week that I believe every follower of Jesus in this time in earth’s history must understand. Each of which will become more and more relevant, I believe, to the events that have ravaged our Southern states as we progress through this weeks thoughts.

Puzzle Piece 1:

First, modern Christianity seems to be guilty of looking at the speck in everyone else’s eye but not noticing the tree trunks that are in our own. We would much rather point out and condemn the sins of others around us than our own. The “deal breaker” sins seem to always be things such as homosexuality and abortion (sins of others) rather than greed, gossip, pride, gluttony, and gross misrepresentations of God’s character to the masses (sins prevalent within the church setting).

Puzzle Piece 2:

Second, Jesus attracted and accepted those whom we as Christians condemn and repulse. His strongest rebukes and condemnations were not toward the “sinners and tax collectors” but rather toward the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law.

Puzzle Piece 3:

Third, I see these two realities as relevant in regard to traditional interpretations of the plagues in the Book of Revelation versus what I see the Book of Revelation actually teaching. Traditionally, Christians have interpreted the plagues as coming just before the end of the world, poured out upon sinners at large for their various and gross immorality. BUT the Book of Revelation is clear that the plagues are instead aimed at the religious systems of the day, those who claim to represent God but grossly misrepresent Him to the masses, maligning His character and name, saying monstrous things about Him.

Puzzle Piece 4:

Fourth, I believe the traditional view is what causes the persecution of others in the last days by those who claim to be following God. If the disasters we see around us are God pouring out plagues on the world for their sins—rather than an understanding that the Apocalyptic plagues are aimed at the religious populous rather than the irreligious—then the logical response is to legislate morality and force those who aren’t like us to “stop sinning” so that all these “acts of God” will cease. The persecution in the last days by those who claim to be following God is rooted in a misperception of God as well as a misinterpretation of the “why” of end-time disasters.

Lastly, we need to be very careful in our statements about what we see happening around us on planet Earth these days. Mother Nature was never designed to operate in the way she is operating now. Her laws were set in motion to preserve life, never to take it. Something has gone wrong, and an enemy has done this. This is especially sensitive to me as I am sitting the immediate context of what has just transpired here in the South. Many well-meaning, sincere Christians are saying things such as, “Surely God’s coming is getting nearer and nearer.” But, honestly, I have to protest. Statements like these are, at the very least, grossly insensitive. I friend of mine lost his mother this last week due to the devastation that ripped through Alabama. So, what are we saying? That the nearer the coming of an all-loving, radically self-sacrificial, other-centered God, the more innocent people (like him) will lose their loved ones? This is blasphemy at a bare minimum.

Yes, things are going to get worse before they get better, especially in the area of “unnatural” disasters, but these are the unintentional but direct result of free will, mankind’s moral abuse of Mother Nature and the intrinsic chain of events we have set in motion. These are not the result of God’s soon return. Yes, the end is near, but we must be clear about the actual cause-and-effect connection really is, or we will do irreparable damage to those who are the innocent victims of the things we see all around us. Yes there will be plagues in the last days. BUT, the life of Jesus and the book of Revelation are very clear. These plagues will NOT be that which comes upon the IRRELIGIOUS, the “tax collectors and sinners” if you will, because of their immorality. But rather, the plagues are that which come upon the RELIGIOUS systems, the “Pharisees” if you will, that have grossly misrepresented the Father and done almost irreparable damage to innocent people’s picture of God.

At the very least, as a follower of Jesus, please, oh please, be careful of what we imply about God in the midst of all the grief and loss currently taking place.

An enemy has done this.

Something worth thinking about.

Keep enlarging the kingdom,

With much love and empathic prayers for those who are suffering this week in the South.

Herb