On this day after the horrendous tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma, we feel for the families who lost children or other loved ones. By all accounts, this had to be one of the worst tornadoes in American history. Normally, they don’t stay on the ground as long as this one did, and the winds may have approached 200 miles per hour. No sin caused this; it was what is usually termed a “natural” disaster.
Some people promote a theology that seems to attribute any natural disaster such as this to the hand of God. While it is true that God is the ultimate sovereign and could, if He chose, direct all things that happen in this world, I personally don’t subscribe to that theology. Yes, God can and has used the elements to bring judgment on some, but when we try to fit all natural disasters into that theme, we go astray.
Jesus spoke to this when he related to his disciples that the tower of Siloam that toppled, killing eighteen people, was not a result of those people’s sins. Don’t suppose, he taught them, that those who died in that event were necessarily worse than those who survived. That tragedy was not some kind of judgment from God. He did use the occasion, though, to warn them with these words: “But unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” None of us knows when we may be the victim of a similar catastrophe; if we’ve never repented and received the forgiveness the Lord so freely offers, we will die in our sins, leading to the ultimate judgment.
Jesus also taught, in the Sermon on the Mount, that the sun shines and the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous alike. There are laws of nature that He has established that continue on, not making a distinction between His people and those who have rejected Him.
Man’s sin did, however, change the course of that nature. Rebellion against the rule and sovereignty of a loving God led to a degradation of the natural creation. The apostle Paul explains in the book of Romans:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
Yes, for now, we live in a troubled world with natural disasters all around. That will not change until this very world is set free from the bondage caused by sin. That day is coming. All will be made new. Our task until then is to show those who are alienated from the love of God the path of redemption. A loving God continually reaches out to each of us, but it’s always our choice whether to reach back or reject His love. Natural disasters have one redeeming feature in this present age—they jolt us and make us think about the day of our death.
What will follow that day?