The title might seem odd. Who, after all, suggests repentance? Repentance isn't something suggested so that one will try and see if they like it. It is not something that is spoken of as "maybe needed" in a given situation. That is why this title seems silly. It is like saying to someone with a failing liver, "Might I suggest a liver transplant?" Yet we are often this ridiculously hesitant in talking about sin and the need for repentance.
Hurricane Katrina came and brought absolute devastation and desolation. It is truly a time of sorrow and suffering -one that I admit I am sheltered and unable to truly experience the way many are. The responses to this destruction are as many as the homes destroyed. Many say, "Where was God in this!?" and shake their heads in frustration. The Christian community, of course, flounders on this point and usually says something like, "God is crying right now, too. These things just happen." There you have it. Absolutely no purpose. God just sets the ball in motion and covers His almighty eyes as it careens to and fro, crashing every now and then.
See, when the terrorist attacks of 9/11 took place, the generic Christian response was not all that different. That time, however, we had evil men behind the scheme that brought about the destruction. It was easy to claim that "God has given us all free will." But still some would ask, "Why did God allow it?" There is still some shred of knowledge of God's sovereignty, even among the unbelievers! The Christian response, at this point, was no different than the response now to Hurricane Katrina. It is like we are ashamed of giving the answer that Scripture points to. We are ashamed of a Mighty God who is just in bringing judgment and who is sovereign over all of us. We fear men more than God.
We like very much to have a God who is like a grandfather. He is way too benevolent and "grand-fatherly" to do things like judge sin or set His judgment against our nation, which is utterly godless. We like God as a gift-bearer, but not as Sovereign King. We like Him to be there to make us feel good on Sunday mornings, but we do not like to entertain the idea that God actually has spoken and does not like what He sees. We like a god who is not God. We like a god who is like someone who sits across the table from us, on our level, and makes deals, transacts with us, and is a "chum" we can kinda call on when we need something. We like to think of God as "really nice", and we want others to like Him too. This is probably also why we like to try to "clear God's name" as Christians, insisting that God surely didn't bring this about. The idea of an utterly Sovereign Creator, One who raises up nations and likewise brings them down, One who holds the winds in His mighty hand, One who hates sin, who is perfectly Holy, set apart, Just, All-powerful, and entirely incensed toward His rebellious creatures who make a mockery of Him and His mighty name.
Of course, then there are the fundamentalists who bitterly reply, "See, that's what you guys get down there in New Orleans." This is evil and godless as well, as a reply. Do they consider for a moment that they also daily provoke the justice and righteousness of God? Jesus replied to this for me, so I will let Him speak:
1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-5)
We all fall in the same boat, and the Old Testament bears ample testimony to the simple fact that God punishes nations and peoples collectively. When He brought the Assyrians against Israel, surely believer and unbeliever alike perished. The whole nation suffered, and His judgment was not for no reason.
What is there that the heathen nations (or even Israel during periods of idolatry) have done, as recorded in the Old Testament, that our nation has not done with scores more force, lust, intent, idolatry, and arrogance? We have all manner of debauchery, and what is worse... we are legalizing it! Homosexual relationships (even marriages) are legally protected. The slaying of unborn infants is protected. We want God's name stripped from everything we see. Our televisions spew forth wickedness. We are the richest, most blessed nation probably that has ever existed, and we spit in the face of the One who has given it all to us. How ironic that Katrina struck with such force the place where the "Southern Decadence" festival takes place every year. We make Soddom look like Disneyland.
There is no reason to doubt that God is sending us, all of us (not just New Orleans), a powerful message that we are too blind, too wicked, too bound to our idols and our idolatrous view of God to recognize. Perhaps the Christians in our nation need to stop being ashamed of God and get on their knees. Our most pressing problem is not rebuilding New Orleans, folks. It is that our nation mocks God and sinfully does whatever it wants, presuming upon God's patience or even denying His existence outright. Yet we still imagine that God is somehow on our side. I can't help think of the false prophets in Jeremiah's time who were preaching "peace, peace" where there is no peace. Let's be real, in the last 15 years alone we have done more to bring God's holy, righteous, and entirey just wrath against our nation than in the preceding years of our nation's history. God has demonstrated time and time again that He brings judgment against nations, and we are no different. The heathen and the believer both suffer. That is the way it is. It would do us all well to think twice next time someone asks us our thoughts about "where God was" when the hurricane hit. It would do us all well to go to the Scriptures when answering these things. The fact that no man is innocent in the eyes of God, that God hates sin, and that He brings His judgment to bear temporally against peoples and nations, not just as individuals when we die, might be good things to take a second look at.
This is a time for those who have been given the light and the truth to start shining it and proclaiming it. Stop making excuses for God -He needs no excuses made. I in no way at all wish to minimize anyone's suffering -I know I cannot imagine what it is like. I pray for healing and for help, but I also pray, seriously, for God to have mercy and grant repentance to us all. How many more things need to come against us before we will start to take seriously where our nation has fallen to?