In the past week two tragedies took place in Florida. The first was the massacre of 49 people in a nightclub in Orlando (Another 50+ were wounded). The second was a child at Disney World who was killed by an alligator. Both events shocked the nation. One was perpetrated by a lone gunman, the other was seemingly a random act of nature for which there were none to blame. Both are equally tragic to those directly affected.
If God does not give us sound answers and help in these situations, then He is not God. This does not mean His answers will be easy to hear or wrap our heads around, but because God is loving and good He does provide both comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3-6) and understanding.
Several things are incumbent upon Christians regarding both events. First, all should weep with those who weep. Whether it is 100+ families for one event, or one family by the other, Christians should seek to help… comfort… and encourage the hurting.
More importantly, Christians must understand and process events from a Biblical perspective. The pull to react emotionally rather than from a Godly perspective is strong, but must be resisted.
Not surprisingly, Jesus addressed two similar events in His day. You may want to read this more than once. I suggest you read it slowly. His comments are recorded in Luke 13:1-5…
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.” ESV
Is Jesus’ response calloused? Uncaring? Offensive? Some may think so at first reading… so let’s consider seriously what Jesus said and the meaning of his comment.
First, the situations. Pilate murdered a number of people who had come to sacrifice to God. We aren’t told why this event transpired but only that it happened. Jesus’ answer addresses the assumption of those listening that somehow they deserved what happened to them… “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?” Then Jesus brings up another event where a tower fell killing 18 people then poses the same question… “Do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem?”
There was the attitude of many in that day that people got what they deserved. If they were good, good things happened. If they were evil, tragedy would befall them. Jesus explodes this thinking in a powerful manner with his statements.
The events in Orlando of the mass shooting and a small child dying in a horrible manner mirrors the events Jesus addressed. Pilate murdering people who came to worship God is somewhat similar to the terrorist purposefully killing 49 and wounding 50+. The tower that fell and caused the death of 18 seems to be just as random as the child dying because of an alligator. (Pause) Stay with me…
Jesus was not being calloused when he said regarding both events, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Jesus’ point was: This is a broken world and bad things happen. Eventually, in one way or another… sooner or later… everyone will die. How a person dies, when and why it happens is not near as important as being ready to die. That was Jesus’ point!
Tragic and unexpected deaths happen to everyone… young and old, good and bad, rich and poor, Christian and non-Christian. Who a person is and how they live does not determine what happens to them in this life. Just as many Christians get cancer… die unexpectedly… have tragic things happen to them as anyone else. Just because something tragic happens to a person… family… or group of people doesn’t necessarily mean they are (Or all are) evil.
Jesus looks past the events of this life to eternity. He loves those conversing with Him enough to speak the truth they were overlooking. He loved them enough to rattle their cage a little to wake them up to a more important reality… ETERNITY.
Think with me about something important… life is fragile. None of us know when we wake up whether or not we will breathe our last before night falls. As it is written in James 4:13-16…
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. ESV
Notice the uncertainty regarding life in verse 15… “IF THE LORD WILLS.” Now think. The life of every individual is in the hands of God to do with as He desires… because He is God. It could be God chooses to end a person’s life to spare them something worse happening if they had lived. WHAT? Yes! Consider Isaiah 57:1…
The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity…
(Keller) “Just because we don’t see how something CAN be good doesn’t mean it ISN’T good.”
James continued… “If the Lord wills, WE WILL LIVE…” If we live the rest of this day, it is because God willed it. If we don’t, that too is His will. That should not bother us because after all, God is God and as such can do whatever He desires and no one can question Him. As found in Ro 9:14…
Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 20 Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?
In other words: God is God, can do whatever He desires, AND it is always good & loving!
Now back to the tragedies from this past week with a few concluding thoughts…
First, the supreme issue is: Are we ready to enter eternity? The ONLY way to be prepared is a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. He is the resurrection and the life. No one goes to God but through Him. Today is the day of salvation. Are we ready?
A secondary issue: Are we as Christians ready to deal with tragedy in our lives. If/when we are thrust into a trial, are we prepared to suffer in a manner that Glorifies God? Is our understanding and relationship with God such that we can give testimony to His love, grace, and mercy to others? Don’t wait until something happens… walk daily with God now.
Last: Are we ready to engage the culture in a manner that is solid Biblically? Are we willing to “Not be ashamed of the Gospel” to speak in such a manner that draws people TO Christ rather than repelling them? As it is written in 1 Peter 3:14-17…
Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
We pray for the families of those touched by tragedy this past week. But know this, tragedy is repeated 10k x 10k times all over this world every day. We just heard about two events. The Christian’s call is to take the love of Christ to all people regardless of position or circumstance.