What do we think when calamity strikes others? Do we believe it is God's punishment or not?
Let us understand that time and chance happen to us all and that we all must repent.
We will look at disasters, governments that kill, tragic accidents and the need for all of us to repent.
Disasters and divine punishment
Are catastrophes God’s judgment on the sins of others? While such claims seem to be justified by stories of divine judgment the Bible teaches that not every calamity is God’s punishment. What would Jesus say about judging suffering? In Luke 13:1-9 Jesus answered religious people who made such claims about similar disasters. A political murder and a local construction disaster were not reasons for believing that the victims were any more sinful than the rest of us. Such self-righteous judgmentalism seemed to disgust Jesus who replied that we all need to repent or perish. As Ecclesiastes plainly teaches, time and chance happen to us all. Not every loss is punishment, just as not every gain is a reward. Even when punishment is due, rather than chastise immediately, Jesus showed God’s preference to give us a second chance to repent.
Wrong idea of God
Even Christians can get a wrong idea of God. We imagine a God who is out to get us, like that old George Jones and Tammy Wynett country song, “God’s gonna get’cha for that. Every wrong thing that you do, God’s gonna get’cha for that.” We imagine a harsh Father in heaven and a pleading Jesus trying to get us out of trouble. But the Bible says that God’s faithful love endures forever. That is the thrust of the argument in Luke 13:1-9 where Jesus answers the hypocrisy that exists in all of us when we point the accusing finger of blame. Human atrocity or simple accidents are not always God’s punishment. We have all sinned and face ultimate destruction in hell unless we repent. But, God has given us all extra time to repent. Let’s not waste it.
Mass murders by governments
Just about every human government that has ever existed has been responsible for mass murder. Is that God’s way of punishing evil? What about the mass murders committed by the Empire of Japan, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany? Were those victims worse people than us? What about the bombing of Dresden, Hamburg, Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Were those women and children worse than us? What about the massacres of history? Were they God’s punishment? In Luke 13:1-9 Jesus described a massacre of worshipers by Pilate, who apparently killed them in the very act of worshiping God. Was their worship insincere? Was it tainted? Such judgmental questions annoy Jesus, because as he said, we will perish too unless we regret our wrongs. Human governments claim to judge between the right and wrong but their opinions do not constitute divine judgment.
Were the 1,500 people who died i the Titanic punished by God? What about the 4,000 victims of Chernobyl or the 20,000 killed in Bhopal? What about the 7 crew members who perished in the Challenger space shuttle disaster? Are accidents God’s way of punishing us? Jesus answered the question in the context of an apparent construction accident (Luke 13:1-9). 130 were killed in the 1944 East Ohio Gas Explosion and 114 were killed in the 1981 Kansas City Hyatt Regency walkway collapse. Were they worse sinners than we are? Just like the 18 who died in the Tower of Siloam collapse, they were probably no worse or better than you and me. Unless we all repent we too will perish. We love to judge the fate of others, but Jesus reminds us to judge ourselves.
Repent or perish
We are all guilty of preferring a lukewarm version of Christianity to repentance. It’s as if we sing from a different hymnal. #57 O for a dozen tongues to sing; #89 Joyful, joyful, we kinda like thee; #110 A comfy mattress is our God; #136 The Lord’s my shepherd, I’m nonchalant; #140 Late is thy faithfulness; #176 Gadgetry, worship our gadgetry; #191 Jesus loves me, status quo; #196 Come thou long neglected Jesus; #299 When I survey the profit and loss; #349 Turn your eyes to my thesis; #354 All to Jesus I’m the lender; #369 Just like insurance, Jesus is mine; #526 What an acquaintance we have in Jesus; #575 Onward kitchen soldiers. We feel safe because we attend church, but Jesus warned in Luke 13:1-9 that there’s more to it. Unless we repent we will all perish.
Rather than judge those who suffer let's look at ourselves and understand that we still have a chance to repent.