The events of Las Vegas have our country reeling. Consequently, the cycle of tragic experiences has sadly become common and accepted as a normative pattern for American life.
The pattern follows:
- Tragedy ensues.
- Sympathies, condolences and prayers are offered via non-personal forms of communication (Social Media).
- Politically charged arguments begin (ban guns, protect the 2nd Amendment).
- Blame others (video games, violent movies/music, the economy, the President or the political party I most dislike).
- Calm down and do nothing.
- Wait for next tragic event and repeat.
This is sadly a very true indictment of the human condition. Where else do we see almost this exact pattern play out? The Garden of Eden. Everything was perfect, and then they partook of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve are ashamed and run, they argue, they blame each other and God, they eventually calm down and do nothing. And so the human race begins a consistent waiting game for tragedy to strike in a world soaked with the consequence of our own rebellion.
What’s missing from this formula? One word: REPENTANCE.
What Christians often forget is the time Jesus addressed tragedy specifically. A man named Pilate took the blood of Jewish people and mixed with it with animal’s blood in a mocking sacrifice to quickly squash an uprising. Another time, a tower fell and indiscriminately killed 18 people. I imagine the people of Jesus’ day were stuck in the same pattern as we, for Jesus addressed both tragic events in Luke 13. Here’s what happened:
Luke 13:1–5 (ESV) 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.”
Did you see what Jesus did? It’s incredible. He doesn’t blame any one person. He doesn’t allow for those who survived tragedy to look down upon those who did not. He doesn’t make tragedy the work of God for the sins of a particular group they didn’t like. He doesn’t even blame Pilate or ROME! What does He do? He calls them to repent.
Here’s the best lesson Las Vegas, Newtown, Virginia Tech, et al can teach us: our world is soaked in the consequences of sin and this should call us all to self-examination.
This is not going to be a popular post. I get that. It’s hard to examine ourselves when it’s far more palpable to scrutinize one madman’s mind and figure out how we can eliminate his ilk so the rest of us can get on with our lives as we see fit. But it will not work. God has been seeking us since the Garden and we’ve been running and hiding in a myriad of ways to prove we can make it without Him. What fools we are. Like the toddler who pushes his father’s hand off the bike for his first non-training-wheeled attempt only to fall moments later and burst into tears. At which point will we learn from our tragedies we are made to live in right relationship with God? At which point will we regard tragedy as a solemn reminder that this world and our very souls are BROKEN beyond the human’s ability to repair? At which point will we consider not only did Jesus experience the consequences of our sins, He gives us the power to leave them behind and walk toward eternity WITH HIM.
The chances are really good that you will read these words looking for different answers than the one Jesus gave in the face of unspeakable human carnage. You will get no other answer from Him. The reason is He bore unspeakable human evil upon Himself for YOU. He endured the archetype of human tragedy at the Cross BECAUSE of YOUR consistent quest to run from Him.
Today and for the next week or two (it gets less each time) our nation is going to ask a lot of questions. Which ones will you ask? I hope they will be answered by a firm decision to stop running from God, stop doing life on your terms and turn and bow to Him. Let the one who made you have His way with you.
In the aftermath of tragedy Jesus would say something far more meaningful than, “I know it hurts.” He would call us to Himself – the author of life and the vanquisher of death.
Repent, believe, and receive His grace. Then pass it on.