Haiti: is God Good?
Haiti: is God Good?
The images coming out of Haiti are appalling, revealing a devastation the mind cannot begin to grasp. A city of millions with half its buildings collapsed, including hospitals, government buildings, the UN peace keeping head-quarters, even the presidential palace – ruins. Under the ruins untold dead, myriads unaccounted for…. On the streets are innumerable homeless, with no supplies of fresh water or food, no medical local help, no communication facilities, not even a functioning government. It’s chaos, hopeless, ugly, angry. The question screams at us, from newspapers and own hearts alike: why???! The National Post suggests an answer: God abandoned Haiti…, and encourages its readers not to do the same.
Did God abandon Haiti? The picture the Bible gives of God is that He most certainly did not abandon Haiti, and did not forget Haiti either. On the contrary, Scripture insists that every creature on Planet Earth is so fully in His hands that nothing moves apart from Him, and that of necessity includes the tectonic plates under Port-au-Prince. Such is His unfathomable sovereignty. He forgets no bird, no beetle, no person – and abandons no part of His creation so that the events that occur happen behind His back.
But that throws the question straight back at us: why would sovereign God shakes those tectonic plates so violently as to flatten a city? Has He no heart for people? Does He enjoy seeing people suffer? Our hearts recoil at such a thought; would the God we love and worship actually be heartless, brazen, cold?! Is He not good??
If evolution were the truth, the question of whether God is good would not be relevant simply because He doesn’t actually exist. In fact, if evolution were the truth of the matter, there would be no reason to ask questions about why an earthquake happens, and no reason either to feel empathy for the grieving and the homeless – for there’s no rhyme or reason to what nature does to us and all we can do is suck it up. Creatures die in the jungle, creatures die in the city – so what, c’est la vie…. Yet we experience in today’s world a massive outpouring of support for the devastated of Haiti, and demands to understand the why of it all. It seems to me that this outpouring of empathy goes to show that when all is said and done the multitudes of the world and their governments have not consistently embraced evolutionary doctrine. Deep down there is recognition that God is real. So the question of divine goodness needs an answer.
The creature does well to be humble before the Creator. Sovereign Creator has revealed that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23; Genesis 2:17). Being the sinner I am, it isn’t for me to judge whether God’s decision to punish sin is agreeable to my sensitivities. I am instead asked to bow my head in confession of my sins, and acknowledge that I deserve death. Then the question is no longer why sovereign God brought the city down upon the heads of Haitians; the question is instead why sovereign God has not rained death upon all mankind, ourselves included. For Canadians in general and the people of Chilliwack in particular are no better than our fellow people of Haiti in general and of Port-au-Prince in particular. Why then are we alive and well?! That’s a question that needs more attention than why Port-au-Prince is not alive and well!
Through the apostle Peter holy God answers the question. “He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Paul repeats the thought; he insists that God displays “kindness, tolerance and patience” because He wants to “lead you toward repentance” (Romans 2:4).
Haiti’s earthquake, then, is not a display of God’s negligence or powerlessness; it is in fact display of God’s goodness. Los Angeles and Vancouver and Sydney and Amsterdam and Beijing and Calcutta and every other city in the world (and every town and village and home also) deserves to be devastated to greater degree than Port-au-Prince was on account of the rebellion that characterises every human being on the Earth. Through the devastation He wrought on Port-au-Prince the Lord reminds the world that He most certainly has the power to visit death upon one and all. But He has refrained from doing so precisely because of His kindness and tolerance and patience; He keeps giving sinners space to repent! Surely, that is goodness!
Yet judgment shall come; God shall not restrain His righteous anger forever. How urgent is it, then, that sinners take the cue God gave in Haiti and use the opportunity God still gives to come right with Him! By filling the media with images of the devastation and the dead, the Lord presses on all people everywhere the urgent need to choose life or death. “Unless you repent,” Jesus told those who were horrified at the collapse of the tower of Siloam, “you too will all perish” (Luke 13:5).
The Christ who triumphed on the cross of Calvary will one day descend from heaven to judge the living and the dead. When He comes, “the heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare” (2 Peter 3:10). John in his vision saw more: “Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called on the mountains and the rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’” (Revelation 6:15-17). Intriguing: they will wish for an earthquake to bring not just Hotel Montana crashing on top of them, but even the mountains themselves…. But it shall not help. Haiti is but a small foretaste….
Yet there is a way to escape such judgment. Jesus Christ experienced on the cross of Calvary the devastating weight of God’s wrath that ought to have fallen on my shoulders – and the blessed result is that I shall never need to undergo that judgment. Then even if an earthquake were to bring my house down on top of me, such a disaster would simply be the means my God would use to bring me to glory – and who would complain of that! Here is a call, then, for sinners to embrace this gospel of redemption.
“The LORD is good to all,” says the Psalmist (Ps 145:9), and that’s so obvious when He brings down only one of the thousands of the world’s cities, and patiently gives the rest space to repent. So the sun arose again this morning on the just and on the unjust…, and there is another day for sinners to acknowledge that the Lord is God.
Since the Lord is good to all the Christian shall be good to all as well, for it’s our privilege to image Him. The people of Port-au-Prince have so much need, and “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). That surely includes the homeless and the injured and the grieving of Haiti. But it also includes the spiritually homeless and the lonely wanderers of Vancouver and Chilliwack and any other city and town and village and settlement of the world. These people, destitute in their wealth, lonely in their crowd, need to taste that the Lord is good indeed. And it’s our privilege to show them….
15 January 2010