Last week on Radio 4 John Humphries was asking eminent people the question, ‘how could an all-powerful and loving God allow the earthquake in Haiti?’ I must admit I wouldn’t like to be faced with that question. But here is an attempt at an answer (based on a sermon written on Luke 13:1-5):
The Bible gives us no warrant for assuming that the earthquake in Haiti was God’s response to any particular sin that nation had committed. However what is plainly obvious is that all of us are going to die one way or another. I can’t tell you why some die in earthquakes and others die peacefully in their sleep. The Bible states that this reign of death is the result of the world being under God’s curse—death became our destiny when humanity rebelled against our Creator. The Bible also says that God is in control of his creation, a fact which we may find uncomfortable when a natural disaster strikes—though we may be left perplexed as to how it can be, the Bible simultaneously claims that God does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men (Lam. 3:33), has mercy on all he has made (Ps. 145:9) and yet is in sovereign control over calamities in such a way that they do not occur somehow outside or against his will (Amos 3:6; Is. 45:7).
Jesus would point to these daily reminders of the fragility of life and warn us to repent. Unless we repent we will perish—we will face a fate more awful than any earthquake—as we take the punishment for our sin. If we repent, turning from our sin and enthroning Jesus as our king, we will see that he has taken our punishment on the cross, he has removed the sting from our death and he is bringing us to a new creation where suffering and death no longer can touch us.
There is one final thing that I would want to say. Jesus’ heart went out to people when he saw them suffer. He would tell his people to be generous in their giving, and to pray for those involved in the relief efforts and those suffering now.