“God Is Not Mad”
Bishop Freddie Steel
Examining God’s Grace and Restraint In Light Of Recent National Disasters
I have heard it said that God got ticked off at the sins of New Orleans and sent Hurricane Katrina as His judgment upon a godless or sinful city. God was not mad at the homosexual and lesbian community in America and judge their sins by permitting the terrible events of September 11th. I believe that I can show you in scripture a couple of important facts that need to be considered by the church. One is that God is much more ticked off by the sins of His church in America than He is by the 'sinners' in American. Second, I believe that I can prove to you, by the Bible, that such messages of God's impending judgment and release of destruction upon our nation essentially comes from ones who have never experienced the lifechanging grace of God and project that view of God onto such terrible events as listed above.
These statements might surprise you coming from a pastor of a 'conservative' (ie. holiness) church who was raised in the south and who now pastors in Chicagoland. However, my views do not arise out of a social or cultural influence but, rather, from my personal understanding of Father God and His indescribable love for all of mankind. I have shared with the church that I pastor my estimation that God is not mad at the sins of the world, He is mad at the sins of the church. Here is what I mean.
If you would read John 1:29, the fourth book of the New Testament, you will find John the Baptist's announcement of the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, Whom John said 'takes away the 'sin' (singular) of the world.' The statement is important and it is important to note that he uses the singular form of the word 'sin' and not the plural form. The reason is because Jesus was taking away the 'sin condition' of the world and making possible restored, harmonious relationship with the Father by grace and through faith. In other words, John was saying that the Messiah was ending the thousands of years of hostilities that existed between 'fallen' man and God by way of the ransom He would pay by dying on the cross.
You will find this same truth in the prophetic message of the angel found in the Book of Luke 2: 13, 14. The angel announced the birth of Jesus and described the change in man's condition that is coming to the world because of Jesus' birth. Verse 14 of the same chapter, in the New International Version, says "and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." 'Peace' refers to the cessation of hostilities and the change in man's sinful, fallen condition as a result of the Messiah's birth. The 'favor' that is announced says that the cup of divine justice is being completely filled and the sin condition of the world has been resolved. Literally, this promise of favor moved backward and forward to cover the past, the present, and the future of mankind.
Oftentimes I reflect and consider the fact that it is no wonder the unchurched world really doesn't want to look our way or listen to what the church has to say: in the broad sense, the church has no real message of grace to give to the world.
There was a time that the church would seek to see the world changed through seasons of prayer, fasting, deep intercession, and travail over the thought that humanity could be lost and eternally separated from God. The love of Christ and the love for the unchurched drove the church to cry out and ask God to have mercy. It seems that we have substituted travail and anointed intercession for ad and mail campaigns, media blitzes, pickets, p.a.c.'s, etc. This type of 'evangelism' efforts labels the unchurched (sometimes spoken and sometimes inferred) as being enemies of the church or enemies of the righteous and are to be overcome by our votes, call-ins, etc.
I am still convinced that the unchurched are not the enemy of the church but they are the object of the sacrificial service that the church is called upon to render so that they might be saved. Remember, the Lord is not mad at the sins of the world (He has remedied that through the efforts and sacrifice of His Son on the cross), but He is 'mad' at the sins of the church.
It is still proper, appropriate, and necessary for the church to spend at least equal amounts of time in travail and intercession for the ills of our communities and society, asking God, once again, to have mercy as time we spend in picketing, protesting, and humanly fighting. The compassion for the unchurched that arises out of this spiritual trench-warfare causes a river of 'salt' and 'light' (preserving and penetrating agents) to flow out beyond the walls of the church affecting those who need to know Christ as Savior and can affect lives eternally, possibly whether we ever utter a word or not.
I am reminded of the story of the lead pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor. There was a book written about him (I believe it is entitled 'God's Samurai') that details his capture and imprisonment in an officers' prisoners of war camp during WWII.
As the story goes, there were young ladies who served the officer / prisoners (something like the candy stripe volunteers at hospitals). Once such young girl was the daughter of missionaries who had served in the Philippines but had been killed by the Japanese. While hiding in the mountains, the Japanese found the missionaries and also found a radio receiver in their possession. If I remember correctly, the invading army killed the young girl's parents in front of her, accusing her parent missionaries of being spies.
The young missionary child wrestled with the hatred that was poisoning her spirit. She asked the Lord what to do and He let her know that the venom would be let by serving those who brought the injury. As it turned out, she volunteered at the officers' prisoner of war camp and was assigned to tend to these Japanese officers.
Over a period of time, the pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor asked her why she was being so gracious to them - the enemy. Her faithful service, guileless conversation, and humble interaction had started to penetrate these hard harts much like salt and light do respectively. The missionary girl told the officer that she had hated them so terribly because they had killed her parents before her very eyes. She told the pilot that she was being consumed by hatred for them and asked God to set her free from the hatred. She told the pilot that she had forgiven them for what they did and that she loved them and wanted them to know Jesus too. This bold, unfeigned display of consistent love was more than what the Japanese officer could handle and he gave His heart to Jesus and his spirit was re-born, it / he had a re-birth into eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.
I contend that the same must happen today: the church must see the world and the unchurched, not as enemies or political opponents but as lost ones who also need to and deserve to hear about and come to know Jesus personally.
Blaming the terrible devastation of Hurricane Katrina or September 11 on the wrath of God displayed against the sinful condition of New Orleans or America itself tells me a few things.
The first thing that it tells me is that too often, the church is more concerned about its 'rights' rather than getting it right. In other words, the punitive thinking that seeks to lay the blame of such destructive devices as Katrina and September 11th at the doorstep of God on the account of the sins of New Orleans and America is reminiscent of the same vindication sought by the Jews when they were under Rome's domination. The Jews plea to Jesus was 'will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?' In other words, they were asking Jesus if He was going to subdue Rome and vindicate them because they were, after all, God's chosen. They could not grasp the full extent of Jesus' response: 'my Kingdom is NOT of this world.'
The same vindication is sought by my church in America today. We seem to be saying to God, 'will you at this time vindicate us, and prove to the world / America that we are 'God's chosen.' 'Will you cast off the liberal domination that we have been forced to tolerate and put righteous men and women in places of leadership so we can be rid of the scourge of the sinful of this day and make them, at least, acknowledge the Kingdom of God. What is missing? Jesus-like intercession and travail that helped Him to lay down His life as a living sacrifice for the very ones that would reject Him and have Him put to death.
We may tend to forget the real meaning of the promise in Acts 1 that promises power to the believers after the Holy Ghost has come upon them. This power is to enable them to be witnesses for Christ. The word translated witness is the same word from which we get the word 'martyr'. The power is provided so that we can be effective witnesses through laying down our lives just as Jesus did for the world that He came to love and save.
The second consideration that I lift up concerns God's nature and time. Isaiah tells us that God 'inhabits' eternity. Finite humans 'inhabit' this moment - only. God, Alpha and Omega Jehovah, lives or dwells in eternity, or He dwells in all of time past, present, and future simultaneously. He is everywhere everywhen. At this moment, God is seeing the birth of your Great great great Grandfather and your Great great great Grandson (if time should prevail) at the same time, right now, simultaneously. This aspect of God's eternal nature, then, says that God has been positioned, parked over New Orleans in its worst of sinful conditions throughout eternity. It is an attempt to make God human with human prejudices to say, then, that God 'finally got fed up' with the sins of New Orleans and said 'that's enough.' Instead, I believe that the Father and the Son have surveyed the total expanse of New Orleans' history in a moment's time, and responded the same as He did when He walked this earth: 'He saw the multitudes and was moved with compassion.' I'm sorry, but He will not be meting out any additional judgment until the next one scheduled in Heaven.
The third thought comes, once again, from understanding the nature of God. We find Jesus elevated and exalted to the highest place of honor at the right hand of the Father with all power and authority in Heaven and in earth His. He is in that position of honor called a throne and the throne is identified as the throne of grace and mercy. Seated on the throne is the Conquering King Who is also typified as the Lamb, an animal known for its gentleness and meekness. God, at this moment, has settled all accounts of divine justice through the price the Son paid with His own life and blood. In the words of the Son, 'it is finished.'
One of the greatest revelations God ever gave me came through my dearest of friends, Reverend Yvonne Pack in West Virginia. One day my dear friend said: 'Freddie, the Lord didn't call you to fix everything that you see that is wrong.' Wow! What revelation! I was freed.
I hate what radical Islam does and stands for but I do not hate Arab-speaking peoples or Muslims. I hate what abortion has done to the millions of unborn and the women who have endured the same. However, I know that many of those who have aborted will never consider the church as being a place of healing or restoration for them.
Homosexual and Lesbian lifestyles are unnatural and are condemned in Scripture. However, the homosexual and lesbian communities are not my enemies - they might see the church as such, but we are not their enemy. Their need of a Savior does not spring from their Homosexual or Lesbian lifestyles. Their need of a savior is the same as our need of a Savior (one sin is not any greater than another - all of us are born with the sin gene and are equally dead, spiritually speaking). They are in need of the forgiveness of the Lord Jesus just as you and I were at one time in need of the forgiveness of Jesus. As Dwight L. Moody said, 'we are simply one beggar telling another beggar where we found bread'. Those who are not Christ followers are, as we were, spiritual beggars. How can we withhold the Bread?