By now, most of the world is aware of the horrific act of terrorism that took place three days ago in a Coptic church in Egypt. Someone went into a crowded church on a Sunday morning during the time of worship and set off a bomb that killed at least 25 people and injured 50 more – the majority of whom were women and children.
Awful awful awful. Makes me sick to my stomach. Another senseless tragedy to add to the list that was already too long to begin with.
What I want to talk about today is how we can make sense out of tragedies and disasters like this. How do we process the event and move forward – not forgetting what happened but also not letting it consume us and fill us with fear and/or anger?
Whether it’s across the world or across the street… whether it’s terrorism or racism… whether it’s called an act of God or an act of the devil…
…how can we make sense of the inevitable tragedies in our lives?
Let’s start by seeing what Jesus has to say.
“There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-5
Here Jesus refers to two tragic events that his hearers remembered and knew well.
The first sounds eerily similar to what happened in Cairo on Sunday. Innocent people (Galileans) were offering worship. Pilate (Roman governor over the area) entered their temple, had them slaughtered and then mingled their own blood with the blood which they were offering in their sacrifice.
The second incident speaks of a tower – which was built to offer safety and security – which suddenly and tragically collapses and kills 18 innocent victims who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It may not sound horrific right now, but you can imagine the feeling of those 18 widows who just lost their husbands and had no way to provide for themselves… or for those 18 sons/daughters who just lost a dad… or for those 18 mothers who just had to bury one of their own children.
There are two mistakes we must avoid when trying to make sense out of tragedies. The first is to think that my behavior is what caused this to happen to me – I’m suffering because I’m bad. In other words, “IT’S ALL MY FAULT.”
The second mistake is the opposite – to think that my behavior and the behavior of other people had nothing to do with this... it’s all random. In other words, “IT’S ALL GOD’S FAULT.”
Both views are wrong.
Jesus says that it isn't the fault of the victims that they were killed – "do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things?" They weren’t being punished for being bad. So get that idea out of your mind.
But then He shifts the conversation away from the victims and onto the listeners - "unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” He’s telling them to stop fixating on what happened to “those people” and start thinking about what is going to happen to YOU!
In other words, WE ALL have a responsibility to bear. WE ALL have to look at ourselves in the mirror. WE ALL have a job to do when it comes to addressing the evil that is in the world.
What is our job? Our job is to A) repent and find Jesus, and then B) help others to do the same.
That’s it. That’s the only answer. No other solution.
I’ve discussed this before on previous posts, but my humble opinion is that the only way that good defeats evil is when the people of God rise up and learn to fight fire with fire. This is not an earthly battle or a governmental battle or a military battle.
This is war and it’s much bigger than some may realize. As St. Paul says “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12-13)
So while we remember the victims and we pray for the perpetrators, we also look in the mirror and ask ourselves:
How does God want me to respond?
Does He want me to grow angry and bitter and afraid?
Or does He want me to repent and return back to Him and then help others do the same?