It seems to happened every time there’s a natural disaster–hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes–and it will happen again. Well meaning people attribute them to God’s punishment or judgment. But is there another way to look at them?David Brooks offers an alternative perspective in his opt-ed in the Times.* While I am not endorsing his storyline, I am endorsing his conclusion which should stimulate us to a more thoughtful response. Quoting extensively Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Brooks says that leadership means taking responsibility for those around us and then tries to make a difference in people’s lives, “even if people are too wicked to actually listen. Moral integrity demands positive action…”
Rather than sittting around trying to figure out why (there may be a time for that), leadership recognizes that we don’t need permission to rebuild the world. Quoting Sacks, Brooks writes, “One of the strangest features of biblical Hebrew is that — despite the fact that the Torah contains 613 commands — there is no word for ‘obey.’ Instead the verb the Torah uses is shema/lishmoa, ‘to listen, hear, attend, understand, internalize, respond.’ ”
Brooks writes, “The answer is the ‘hearken’ mentality that Sacks describes. To hearken is to be faithful but also responsible…” Brooks rightfully concludes, “Floods are invitations to recreate the world.”
Following Irma, sitting on my lanai this morning watching the sunrise and waiting patiently for things (like a restoration of power!) to return to a new normal it’s impossible to miss this–dawn brings a fresh invitation at restoration–building within God’s Kingdom to make a difference in the world, not judge it. Being a “faithful presence,” as James Hunter would say. Love is the language God speaks and is the language we must learn.
Phillip Yancey says, “I doubt God keeps track of how many arguments we win; God may indeed keep track of how well we love.” Yancey says, “When I ask, ‘Tell me the first word that comes to your mind when I say Christian,’ not one time has someone suggested the word love. Yet without question that is the proper biblical answer. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor, love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you.”
We are a people living in a world of brokenness, violence, natural disasters, and ruptured relationships — but the Gospel is truly good news, and while judgment is a part of what the Bible teaches, so is justification–the extension of grace upon grace and the opportunity for renewal.
*I “borrowed” the title of this post from David Brooks’ post.