by Bill Byrnes
Romans: 2:1-3: “If you think you can judge others, you are wrong. When you judge others, you are really judging yourself guilty because you do the same things they do. God judges those who do wrong, and we know that his judgment is right. You do wrong yourselves. Do you think you will be able to escape the judgment of God?”
With all the natural disasters occurring in the past few years haven’t most, or all of us “believers” been asking ourselves, “Is God punishing us?–and if so, why?” Yes, I’ve been wondering that too, and I’m glad that I never came up with any kind of answer… until recently.
What “lights my fuse” on any questions like these are the rants by the right-wing extremists who continue to misinterpret the Bible to suit their own political agendas and personal prejudices. Can’t you just hear them spouting their verbiage: “The reason God punishes us with this drought(or with all these tornados, fires, floods or whatever) is because this country recognizes Gay marriage”, and/or “…because this country favors abortions & birth control!” My favorite runs something like this: “God never intended America to be a socialist country and that’s where Obama is taking us”. (Note that they never say Pres. Obama!)
Well, to all the right-wingers who think like this–I hate to be the one to tell ya’ –but– YOU’RE WRONG!!! Furthermore, IF God is punishing us it’s because we STILL AREN’T doing what the Bible asks us to do!
Before I go any further, let me back-off a little and say that there’s MANY, wonderful, well-intentioned believers, conservatives (and being a conservative does NOT make them “bad” or misguided people), who espouse the extremist views mentioned above. My gripe is not with them, but with their religious leaders, who keep telling them what to think, instead of leading them to the Bible and letting the word of God help them with their decision making! I wonder if these are the same leaders backing the extreme right-wing GOP candidates who say they are disciples of Ayn Rand, a well-known, self-proclaimed ATHEIST?
So, maybe I don’t have all the credentials in front of my name that they do, but this much I can say: I read the Bible and I accept Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior! And, these are the only credentials anyone needs to enter into this discussion, or any discussion about what the Bible says!
“And a voice came down from Heaven and said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love, and with whom I am very pleased.’ ” Matthew:3:17
Make no mistake about it. When Jesus was born, life became a “whole new ball-game”, and he would be the umpire! “I have not come to destroy the law, or the prophets, but to fulfill the law”. Matthew:5:17. He simplified the voluminous Mosaic laws, and the Ten Commandments, into two simple rules that everyone could understand: Matthew:22:36-40: “…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all your heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind. This is the first & great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang ALL the law and the prophets.” Furthermore, Jesus taught that ALL sins are forgivable including speaking against him or the Father! The only sin that COULD NOT be forgiven: “…anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit, now or in the future.” Indeed, anyone could receive forgiveness, and therefore salvation, by accepting him. John:8:12: “I am the light of the world. The person who follows me will never live in darkness, but will have the light that gives life.” Jesus added to this thought with his metaphor comparing himself to a vine: John:15:1-2;4;7: “I am the true vine, my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that does not produce fruit…Remain in me and I will remain in you. A branch cannot produce fruit alone, but must remain in the vine. In the same way…you must remain in me. If you remain in me and FOLLOW my teachings, you can ask anything you want and it will be given to you.”
Let me add this caveat: forgiving someone does not mean that you agree with them–or that you would do the same things. To me, forgiveness means that you accept the fact that true judgment of their actions is an issue best settled by God! Therefore, we MUST NOT judge others, or execute laws that punish others based upon our judgments.
Luke:6:37: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not and ye shall not be condemned. Forgive and ye shall be forgiven.”
With these thoughts in mind, I’ll ask this question: IF God is punishing us with these natural disasters who is he really punishing? Does it make sense to think he would punish us if we WERE following the teachings of Christ? In the opening paragraph, I said that I had not come up with any kind of an answer…until recently. My answer is this: IF God is punishing us with these natural disasters… then it’s because we, still, have NOT followed the teachings of his son! Don’t forget John: 7: “ If you remain in me and follow my teachings, you can ask anything you want and it will be given to you.”. Conversely, if we do NOT follow Jesus’ teachings, “..(we)they are like a branch that is thrown away and then dies.”.
To the right-wing extremists: our country did not start going downhill when prayer was banned in public schools; it started when we stopped praying outside of school, and when we stopped reading the Bible and started relying upon others to do that for us!