Faith Forum: What should faithful people make of this summer's natural disasters — floods, tornadoes, heat deaths, etc.?

The Rev. Matt Cox, pastor, EastLake Community Church, 2734 La. (South Junior High):

Although I think there can be great discussion over the “Why does God allow these events to happen?” angle, I think as people of faith, we need to be more concerned with the “What now?” than the “Why?” Among the worst circumstances we need to be the very hands and feet of Jesus when it’s certainly a temptation for us just to be the mouthpiece.

I believe the church is specifically called and designed for open-handed living with our time, talent and treasure (yes, money.) Wherever we are, those who are there should be better off because Christians are there, found ready to serve and give.

For example, during the Joplin disaster (and continuing recovery) we encouraged our smaller groups to be involved, whether donating items, money or taking their talents or time down to volunteer.

This leads to the bigger question: Is service merely a project? Should we just wait around for the next global or national disaster to spur into action? With that mentality, we unfortunately treat serving others as a project to do once in awhile rather than a lifestyle to live. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with creating a specific service project or program, they should be looked upon as opportunities that fit into our lifestyle of serving versus something to do once a year — before a holiday, if we have time, if we remember.

Responding to disasters should be part of our DNA no doubt, but the local church’s heart of service should be consistently active in the local community. How are we taking steps forward with the poor, the homeless and the abused in Lawrence? If we claim Jesus is life and hope, we need to be active in being that very thing for the Lawrence that we say we love.

— Send e-mail to Matt Cox at matt@eastlakelawrence.com.

The Rev. Gary O’Flannagan, pastor, Cornerstone Southern Baptist Church, 802 W. 22nd St.:

Some people have said that God causes natural disasters as a form of punishment, as a Christian I am careful about making these kinds of judgments. I certainly believe in a Creator, who might be responsible at times and Who has the ability to cause such events but I also believe in “natural evil.” Natural evil is a partial explanation for why bad things like natural disasters happen.

Natural disasters are a result of what the Bible calls sin. When sin first took place with Adam and Eve, every aspect of the natural world was affected. The Bible says in Romans 8:22 “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time,” NIV. This is the impact of sin on the world we live in, because of sin creation no longer operates as designed.

There is another form of evil, “moral evil.” Moral evil occurs when a person does an action that we know is wrong, murder, lying and stealing are some examples of moral evil, sometimes times disasters are caused by our choices. An example of this might be the Gulf of Mexico oil rig that spilled hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil into the Gulf. It is believed that negligence was a real possibility as a cause, if so, whoever was in charge of the safety practices would have the cause, making this not a natural evil but a moral one. Either way, we live in a world where evil exists.

As a Christian, I believe we are all personally responsible for our own choices and actions. And while natural disasters occur I don’t blame God for them and I believe that God will reveal his sovereign control and make all things right in this world. Psalm 119:91 “Your laws endure to this day, for all things serve you,” NIV.

— Send e-mail to Gary O’Flannagan at gary2_1962@yahoo.com.

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