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Wednesday, 11 February 2009

A Saviour not a Judge

On Feb. 10th. The headlines said it all:

“DOZENS of people are missing, presumed dead, amid a warning that the Victorian bushfire toll could exceed 300, with up to 100 of the dead coming from one town. And as the official death toll continued to climb it was reported looters were stalking the blackened shells of the towns hit.”

Meanwhile Danny Nalliah, a Pentecostal pastor, recalled a dream he had at the time he was opposing Victoria’s newly passed abortion legislation last year. "In my dream I saw fire everywhere with flames burning very high and uncontrollably," Mr Nalliah said. He claimed. the Victorian bushfires were divine retribution for the state's abortion laws, and that God's "conditional protection" had been "removed from the nation of Australia, particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb".

Now, how is that helpful to the grieving scarred relatives of so many victims who have lost everything? Are the feelings of the grieving and breathing lives outside the womb less important than the feelings of those inside? Victims are perhaps asking if God is a God of love, or whether He cares that they even exist! No wonder that Peter Costello, one-time PM-elect, furiously rounded on such insensitivity, saying, "To link the death and the suffering of bushfire victims to other political events is appalling, heartless and wrong. . . . Those who have suffered deserve every support and sympathy. It is beyond the bounds of decency to try to make moral or political points out of such a


Is it right for the Christian to appeal to the Old Testament, in claims of divine retribution, and in the spirit of, say, Amos 1:3 "Thus saith the LORD; For three transgressions of Damascus, and for four, I will not turn away the punishment thereof; because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of iron: 4 But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael, which shall devour the palaces of Benhadad."

Hang on a minute! Amos was addressing a people specially chosen to receive the oracles of God (Rom. 3:2). They were in covenant with God, and had an ethnic identity. They had all been baptised into Moses and the Red Sea (1 Cor 10:1-2). In contrast, Australia is a multi-cultural nation made up of many people without even a passing acquaintance with the Bible, and so many of our countrymen have no clue what God is like. How can we possibly teach the biblical doctrine of collective guilt, just like that, without first introducing basic truths which support it, like - Adam’s guilt was real when he disobeyed God in the garden of Eden. [Wow! We’re up against it .already, if David Attenborough is listening!]. Adam, a real historical individual brought death on the entire race - every man, woman, boy and girl.

Paul explains why little children died before they knew their right hand from their left. The basic premise is that no one is innocent before God, not even ‘innocent children.’ The Apostle Paul teaches that “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam . . . “ (Rom 5:14) Paul is teaching here the only way to explain why death is universal, is to realise that the guilt of what Adam did was reckoned upon all his descendants. (Rom 5:19) Children also die, but death is God’s punishment for sin. It means that just as God held adults responsible for what Adam did from the time of creation to the giving of the Ten Commandments, so He also held their children guilty of what their parents did. If challenged on this, Paul would doubtless have said, ‘Tell me why, then, death was 'unfairly' meted out on the children?’ The rest of the Bible proceeds on the presumption of collective guilt.

Yes, but Jesus said, “ For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:7) God raised him from the dead, that He might be a Saviour at this present time, not a judge. "And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. (John 12: 47)

So, rather than condemning the bushfire victims or their relatives, we should be reaching out to show them the way home.