|Amazing Grace - The Hand of God|
On May 2, 2008, the Cyclone Nargis hit Myanmar causing at least the death of 100,000 people. The towns in the coastlines were wiped out. In a fishing village for example, an elderly man lost all 28 of his family members. The extent of the damage even visible from space, with the once well defined coastlines and river system of Myanmar now blurred by flooding and destruction. The tragedy was expounded by the refusal of the Military Regime to allow much food and medical aid to reach the most needy. The supplies that came through were re-labelled as being from the Generals as an enticement to vote for the them in a referrendum that went ahead despite the disaster. The current military junta seized power in 1988 after the fall of Ne Win, another millitary commander who ruled the nation after a miliary coup of 1962. In summary, since 1962, the people of Burma suffered incredible poverty, denial of political and human rights by a military regime divorced from the sufferings of its people and doing all to maintain power and control, and living an extravagant lifestyle. The struggle for freedom is best represented by Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader who won the general election of 1990. She won the election convincingly but was kept under house arrest until today instead of being allowed to govern.
The years of wars and military dictatorship has caused increadible poverty and suffering for the people of Myanmar. Formerly known as Burma, it was rich in resources but after years of military rule it is one of the poorest countries in the world at a 2005 GDP of USD 1691 per capita ( ranked 150th). This compared to Singapore with a 2007 GDP of USD 49,714 (ranked 6th). In well to-do Singapore, in a large auditorium in Katong, Singapore, with world class Christian speakers, very confortable air con environment and well to do parisherners, we have the pastor of a mega church explaining from the Book of Amos that the Cyclone is the judgement of God. It is the hand of God upon an unrighteous nation according to "The Pastor's Heart" on 10 May 2008 ( A Reminder of our Fragility ). Even before food, medical aids and help is received, we have the Senior Pastor proclaiming judgement that it is the hand of God, ie you deserved it as it is God's punishment. We have a people dying, hungry, suffering, but yet the well to do Christians in one of the riches parts of the world, could stand back with a finger of judgement, saying, this is God. Even if it was their fault, even if they had deserved it, where was love, where was compassion, where was mercy and grace. If one seeks to find evil and meaness, and evil in the heart of man, perhaps, one need not look far from Katong. The life of a hundred thousands and millions more with their livelihoods losts, simplified and explained as "God's hand". May God have mercy on the Christian Right, to take so lightly the sufferings and pains of others far less fortunate.
The Senior Pastor claimed that it was unrighteouness and the Burmese people needed to be taught righteousness. The nation of Myanmar had suffered for more than 45 years because of brutal military dictatorship. What sins have they committed to deserved this? What unrighteousness has the people of Mynamar committed that is so terrible that God should judge them first above and beyond the surrounding nations! The Christian Right can claim that the nation worship idols, but so do other nations. And after suffering from worldly brutal military regime, it appears that to some Christian Pastors, even God's hand is upon them to make them suffer even more. What unrighteouness has the people of Mynamar committed? tell that to the children who grows hungry and without shelter and who lost their parents. Dare we claim and tell them to "It is God"!
We do not have wisdom, because we do not fear God. There is no fear of judgement or punishment in mis-representing God. How could we ever say that God caused the disaster or even allow this disaster, The Kingdom of the World, is not God's, it belongs to man. Disasters happened because we lived in a fallen world, with fallen people. If God were to intervene like Superman, then tell me, where is our freedom, our rights? where is our freedom of choice to decide between good and evil? If God have had to intervene, then if He were to be consistent, then He would have to destroy the entire mankind which He once did when He flooded the enitre Earth because the people were extremely evil. But God did intervene, and yet preserved our liberty. He sent His Son Jesus Christ, that we can decide whether to belong to the Kingdom of this world or the Kingdom of God. Look carefull and you see the real cause -
Look carefully, and you see the real cause, the powerful, the wealthy and the religious, the very people sitting in the pews of mega churches in the US and Singapore, claiming it is God's judgement.
Calling it the "Act of God" is to blampheme God and to mispresent Him in the highest order. It is said that the unforgivable sin is to blashemped the Holy Spirit in the context of mispresenting the mighty works of God as due to Satan. Today, we are misrepresenting the evil works of man and call it the Hand of God. We are very very close just as the Pharisees who were so cruel and evil and mean to judge God's hand of healing upon those who suffered so much in the coummnity as that done by the evil one. The Pharisees were warned that their sins may not be forgiven and today, some of us so exhaust the grace and mercy of God, that if not for God overwhelming Grace, a mini cyclone would come upon Katong. Although we may call ourselves "Christians", our Lord Jesus Christ had such a different spirit from the Christian Right. If Jesus had the same spirit, then when He came down to earth, He would have destoyed the entire earth with His army of Angels, yet He did not. He came to love and not to condemn. The Pharisees did not received Him because theirs hearts were mean, judgemental, and without love nor compassion.
The Senior Pastor of the mega Church at Katong had argued from the bible using the book of Amos, as the justification for the judgement of God. The Christian Right has claims that the Liberals are destroying the bible, but it is they who through their gross misinterpretation gives room for others to challenge the very core message of the bible. The Liberals may have stepped on the bible, but the Christian Right have burnt it. The book of Amos was written to a people under a totally different context and covenant.
The above verse was used to claim that the calamity was caused by God. But look closely, "If a trumpet is blown in the city ....". God has sent Amos and many other Prophets to warn Israel and Judah of impending judgement due to their sin of worshiping other gods. Amos ministered to God in 750BC. The Jews were under Covenant with God at Mt Sinai that if they worshipped other gods, God would sent calamity. But yet God waited and waited and waited and sent many prophets for over one thousand years but the people did not listen and Israel, the Northern Kingdom fell to Assyria in 721BC. When we equate the cyclone in Burma to the hand and judgement of God in Amos, it takes away so much from the grace and compassion that God showed, to send His prophets, and to wait for more than a thousand years before finally executing judgement because the people's heart were very stubborn and would not change. As God is a righteous God, He must execute judgement as dictated by covenant with Israel. By claiming that it is God's hand, we have misrepreted the God of Israel and have shown Him to be a God who is so quick to judge and have no mercy. It is not God who is at fault here, but it is us. Our hearts have grown cold and mean. Just like the Pharisees, we have used the bible as a tool for condemnation and put people into bondage. We have not shown mercy nor grace.
The judgement upon Israel was really confirmed when the people of Israel who were doing so well financially begin to oppress the poor and crush the needy. There is certain treashold is reached when an entire nation seeks to oppress badly the outcasts within their midsts. Worshiping idols were bad enough, but oppressing the outcats really brought in condemnation. The nation of Sodom and Gamorrah was not judged because of homosexuality, but because of their wickedness towards other nations even to the extent to subjugate other nations into their control and brutally control them by raping their woman and having sex with men. And the Christians in Singapore, so wealthy and strong, so rich and powerful, and yet crush the hope and aspirations of its gay minorities and whilst the nation of Mynamar is suffering greatly, in Singapore, in the comfort and wealth, we point the finger and proclaim it is God judgement upon Burma. Indirectly, we are saying that God has blessed us because we are righteous. If there is any judgement, surely the Church in Singapore will be judged first. The self righteouness of the Christian Right and their meaness and heartlessness, so lacking in grace, mercy and compassion to others makes the grace of God very cheap indeed, just like the German Christians who sang hymns of praises whilst Jews and Gays were herded into concentration camps to their deaths in World War II.
In our Christian Ministries, we have forgotten basic humanity and love. We have forgotten people and over emphasised our dogma and theology. In John 9:1-16, both the disciples and the Pharisees overlooked the fact that the man who had suffered so much from birth, was healed. The pain, the suffering, was overlooked. This was what our first response should be - the heart of compassion for those who are suffering, and the heart of rejoicing when the blind could see. It was totally inappropriate to ask whether the man actually deserved this! It was like asking God whether Myanmar derserved the cyclone! what sin have they committed!. Yet God was so gracious, and proclaimed that it was not their sins that had caused this great suffering. So today, we proclaim that it is not the unrighteousness of the people of Myanmar that had caused the cyclone. Rather, whatever reasons the cause of it, may this be an opportunity for God to work a beautiful thing out of it.
The heart for people, in contrast to our religious self righteous hearts to condemn, were the first things that came to Jesus' heart, one of love, compassion, mercy and grace. Yet, for all this, the disciples and the pharisees were very very careful as not to dishonor the name of God. Although they may have meant it when they said "who sinned?", they were very careful as not to say that God caused the blindness. The question for the Pharisees was whether God caused the healing? and not whether it was the hand of God, that the blindness occurred. Christians in Singapore, is so quick to judge, so quick to use God's name and the bible in vain, that we forgotten the heart of God, the heart of mercy, the heart of grace. Let us repent today, for our hardened heart, that no longer lack any feeling nor compassion and our relgious self righteous attitude so contrasting to the message of the Gospel of the Good News.
Father God, I thank you for your grace upon Singapore. Truly, you have built the mega churches in Singapore, with thousands in attendence every week. I seek you your forgiveness and mercy on their behalf, that your grace continue to pour into Singapore even though our hearts have been mean and evil. Forgive us, O Lord, soften our hearts. Let there be humility, let there be love and compassion, always remembering the Amazing Grace given through your Son Jesus Christ.
Come Lord Jesus, let your amazing grace come upon Singapore, even though we least deserved it. We are sinners - the worst kind - but your grace is far more than sufficient to move our hearts and to acknowledge you in fear as our Lord and Saviour. It is not by our works, but by your grace that you have protected Singapore. Let your salvation come to Singapore. May be show grace to others because You First Love Us. Help Us to see people with your heart and your compassion. We were once blind, but now we see, yet you condemned us not. Come Lord Jesus.
"Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
T'was Grace that taught...
Through many dangers, toils and snares...
The Lord has promised good to me...
When we've been here ten thousand years...