In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, followed a week later by a chilling nor-easter, the New York Post yesterday boldly declared, “God Hates Us… but we have an angel.” The front-page headline was combined with a provocative picture of a Victoria Secret model.
In trying to read between the lines, my guess is that the message combines a sense of cheeky, cynical frustration combined with the awareness of voices that will undoubtedly declare that God is judging the US east coast.
At this point I’m recalling a couple of different occasions when Jesus responded to the question of whether bad things happen to those who are more sinful than others. It happened once when his disciples asked whether a certain man’s blindness had occurred because of his own sins, or because of the sins of his parents (John 9:2-3). Jesus’ answer was that they should not link the man’s blindness to anyone’s sin, but to rather to something that God wanted to do to show his own glory.
On a separate occasion the Teacher responded to news of two events that resulted in multiple deaths. One involved Pilate’s killing of an undisclosed number of Galileans. Another involved the deaths of 18 Jerusalem residents who died when a tower fell on them. Anticipating the assumption that those who died were worse sinners than others in their community, Jesus resisted the implication and said, “unless you repent, you will also perish” (Luke 13:1-5).
The other text that comes to mind is in Romans 1 and 2 where the Apostle describes the downward spiral of sin that begins with willful rejection of the light that God has given of himself in what he has made. Next comes the creation of self-made god-substitutes in our own likeness, followed by a long list of sins.
The surprise comes, however, when after describing all of these sins as worthy of judgment, Paul catches an unsuspecting victim. Sort of reminds me of what happened when I used a live trap the other day to catch chipmunks that have been taking over my garage. Second time I found the trap tripped I found two sparrows that I quickly released.
In the Romans story, however, it appears that Paul’s surprise catch is intentional. He goes on to write that whoever takes his list of sins as an occasion to judge anyone else is making a big mistake. According to Paul, those who judge are as guilty as those they judge (Rom 2:1).
So what are we to make of all of this? Seems like it is worth talking about. How do we process our tendency to conclude from our circumstances either that “God hates us” or that “God loves us”?
PS Thanks to Steve from WV for sending us some pictures that give us a bit of an idea of what he, Glenna, Matt and his town have been wrestling with since Sandy.