Another tragedy – this time a mass shooting in a Colorado marketplace. People want answers when bad things happen. Who or what is to blame? Why would God allow this? Consider the answer Jesus gives. ◊
Several years ago, 2 tragic incidents occurred. There was a horrific slaughter of people worshipping in their church. Many wondered whether God was punishing them. At that same time nearby there had been a collapse of a building structure that killed multiple people.
This past week we have yet another cruel act of violence. This time a deadly shooting of innocents while they are shopping or working in a Colorado grocery store.
Beyond the obvious questions of Who, How, and Why come the next level of questions considering God and providence: Where was God? How could God allow innocent people to be brutally murdered? Why didn’t God stop it? Why does was God allow bad things to happen to good people?
Good questions. Ever wonder what would Jesus actually say?
Really, What Would Jesus Say?
People actually did ask Jesus questions about human tragedy. The 2 incidents cited above involving a brutal church massacre and a building accident that caused the death of 18 men literally happened when Jesus walked the earth.
Regarding the first incident, for reasons unknown, the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, directed the bloody murder of a group of Jewish people during sacrificial services at the temple. Those killed by the Romans were from Jesus’ hometown region of Galilee.
The incident surrounding the tower of Siloam in southern Jerusalem added another dimension to Jesus’s reply.
Here’s the Biblical account written up in Luke 13:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” – Luke 13:1-5
What Does That Mean?
Yes, this is a strange response that is actually fairly loaded with meaning and a Godly perspective, from Jesus the God-Man Himself.
The people were looking for a comforting and rational explanation as to why bad things happen. While they did not doubt the existence of God, the prevailing thinking at that time was that God punishes or allows things for a deserving reason. This comes up again in the question posed to Christ (in John 9) about the cause of the man being born blind:
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” – John 9:1-3
Jesus flips the argument. He points out our wrong thinking. It’s not about deserved punishment, an absent or powerless God, or even a capricious God. Evil and dark deeds, spiritual battles, accidents, and misfortune happen. They are all known to God, and are allowed by God. But all things happen for His purposes, purposes in many cases understood by only Him.
In any case, we need to repent, surrender and turn our hearts to God or we too will perish. As theologian R. C. Sproul points out, we should all be so fortunate to not have a tower collapse on us!
The entire Bible lays out the context in totality: in this present dark but purposeful world created and redeemed by God through Jesus, we are all lost and doomed.
Harsh but true. We are each saved for eternity only by the gift of God’s grace alone. All other perspectives are actually mere chatter and speculation.
The Confused, the Doubting, and the Unrepentant
If you think about it, all of mankind can be placed into 3 categories on this matter: the confused, the doubting, and the unrepentant:
- The Confused – like the man Job in the Old Testament, it’s fair to question God with friends and wonder Why, oh why are these bad things happening (to you, or them, or others far away)? It’s in our human nature to want answers. As a full reading of the Book of Job will reveal however, God has His reasons and ways that are way beyond our understanding. Even Job gets it eventually. (See Job chapters 38-41.) We are foolish to do anything but submit to omniscient God.
- The Doubting – like the prophet Habakkuk in the Old Testament, it’s fair to challenge and even debate God directly in righteous anger about things not seemingly fair and just. As Habakkuk finally learns and humbly submits by Chapter 3 in the Book of Habakkuk, God is doing a work in our days “we would not believe even if we were told.” We are foolish to doubt or do anything but quiver and rejoice in the presence of omnipresent God.
- The Unrepentant – like the non-believers then and now that Jesus challenged to repent lest they too soon perish, it’s fair game to resist the Word of Truth and historic and physical evidence of the work of God/Jesus Christ. But resistance is ultimately futile in this life and beyond. But as many have ultimately seen the light, many remain foolish in their stubborn unrepentance in the face of omnipotent God.
So What’s the Answer?
Once again, God is God and we are not. It’s not about us and our comfort here on earth. His ways are unknown to mortal man beyond His revealed Word, the Bible, in this broken and corrupted world. But He loves us and wants to reconnect and restore relationship with each of us, like a loving Father and His children. We simply need to repent, submit, and worship Him who is eternally faithful and just.
By abiding in His love, without fear but with courage, even in the face of painful human tragedy, we can experience human and spiritual peace now and everlasting.
Are you confused, doubting, or unrepentant?
[Jesus said] “Hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky. How is it that you don’t know how to interpret this present time? Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” – Luke 12:56-57