Monday, September 05, 2005

Mercy or Wrath?

By Alexander Samuels

Last Friday, AgapePress posted an interesting article titled "New Orleans Residents: God's Mercy Evident in Katrina's Wake," by Jody Brown and Allie Martin. A portion of the article was about the Reverend Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship in New Orleans.

According to the article: . . .

Rev. Bill Shanks, pastor of New Covenant Fellowship of New Orleans, also sees God's mercy in the aftermath of Katrina -- but in a different way. Shanks says the hurricane has wiped out much of the rampant sin common to the city.

The pastor explains that for years he has warned people that unless Christians in New Orleans took a strong stand against such things as local abortion clinics, the yearly Mardi Gras celebrations, and the annual event known as "Southern Decadence" -- an annual six-day "gay pride" event scheduled to be hosted by the city this week -- God's judgment would be felt.

"New Orleans now is abortion free. New Orleans now is Mardi Gras free. New Orleans now is free of Southern Decadence and the sodomites, the witchcraft workers, false religion -- it's free of all of those things now," Shanks says. "God simply, I believe, in His mercy purged all of that stuff out of there -- and now we're going to start over again."

The New Orleans pastor is adamant. Christians, he says, need to confront sin. "It's time for us to stand up against wickedness so that God won't have to deal with that wickedness," he says.

Believers, he says, are God's "authorized representatives on the face of the Earth" and should say they "don't want unrighteous men in office," for example. In addition, he says Christians should not hesitate to voice their opinions about such things as abortion, prayer, and homosexual marriage. "We don't want a Supreme Court that is going to say it's all right to kill little boys and girls, . . . it's all right to take prayer out of schools, and it's all right to legalize sodomy, opening the door for same-sex marriage and all of that."

Most of us, whether Christian or not, look at the statements by the Rev. Shanks and shake our heads. How can he say such things in light of the terrible tragedy that has just occurred? Does he really think he knows what God was doing in this situation? Is he a nut? Some (more than would like to admit) will also wonder, "Is he right?"

In the 13th chapter of Luke, Jesus speaks about two other tragedies: "Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, 'Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.'"

Jesus is teaching that you should be careful in assuming or proclaiming that others are suffering because their sins are so great. We all deserve punishment in the eyes of a Holy God. We must be consistent in dealing with our own sins first. During such times we should minister the Gospel faithfully and be a witness of God's mercy to those who are suffering.

Alexander Samuels is a regular contributor to Carolina Christian Conservative.

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