[July 08]--When Bad Things Happen to Bad People

Luke 13:1-9

I guess I have a slightly sick sense of humor. Every time I read passages like today’s, I end up thinking “. . .and then Jesus went on to write a book called How to Win Friends and Influence People.”

For a thought experiment, let’s put this in a modern context in order to thoroughly appreciate just how shocking this was. Right after September 11, there were people—on the political left and on the religious right—who said some pretty shocking things. People on the extreme Left said we deserved this attack because of our foreign policy in the Middle East. Others on the Religious Right said America deserved this, or at least New York City did, because of its abortion policies or attitude towards homosexuality. And of course most American people were disgusted by such statements.

So let’s do a thought experiment for a moment. Let me paraphrase Luke 13:1-5. “Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the thousands who had died at the hands of Muslim extremists in the Twin Towers. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these New Yorkers were worse sinners than all the other Americans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen hundred who died when Hurricane Katrina landed—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Louisiana? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish!’” Can you imagine the response?

What was Jesus’ point here? There are those—again, from all types of persuasions—who try to attach some deeper meaning to deadly disasters, both natural and man-made. “It must have happened for a reason. There must be a reason why they were killed and I wasn’t.” And from there it’s a short leap to believe that you’re somehow morally better than those who were killed.

Jesus’ response to that line of thinking? Nonsense. You’re not any less deserving than they were, nor any more deserving. Since the Fall of mankind, we’re all under the death penalty. All of us are sinners, and the penalty for sin is death (both physical and spiritual). If the hammer hasn’t fallen on me yet, then that’s not a testimony to my clean living. For some mysterious reason, God has chosen to withhold what I deserve. . .for the moment.

That’s the reason why he gave the parable of the fig tree right after that little word of sunshine. Both Israel as a nation and each individual soul were under God’s wrath for disobedience. The Lord, since he’s not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance, gives each of us a certain amount of time to return to him. But there will come a time when the sands in the hourglass run out. If by that time I haven’t repented (turned away from doing things my way and submitted to doing things God’s way), then I’ll finally get what I deserve.

So what’s the point to this? When I hear about someone killed in a terrorist attack or in a car accident, what should be my response? Well, that’s not the cue to start a discussion on whether or not there’s a direct correlation between those people’s sins and what happened to them. Maybe there was, and maybe there wasn’t. But the question I need to ask myself is “What about me? Am I right with God? If that happened to me (which it very well could have), then where would I be right now?”

If you’re reading this and haven’t submitted your life to Christ yet, then you know what you ought to do. If not, or you're not sure if you have or haven't, then please read this.

If you are saved, then you’re not completely off the hook either. Incidents as big as Sept. 11 and as small as a car wreck should remind each of us that we have a short time here. There’s only a short time to let our loved ones know about this. But there’s another emotion that this should produce: Gratitude. Our loving God chose to snatch you out of that mess, redeem you, adopt you, and cleanse you. He didn’t have to do that, you know.

Father God, may each death around me spur me on to serve you better. Please give me your compassion for the lost and a deep desire to see them come into your family. Whatever it takes.

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