Suffering and the good God pt 2b–Unequal suffering

A follow up to this blog entry.

In part 2a, I put forward the Bible’s case that death is God’s punishment on humanity’s rebellion against him; how we have usurped God’s rule and put ourselves in his place. Death is both physical (expiration of bodies) and spiritual (broken relationship with God).

The question could (rightfully) be asked though, why do some die young (like Jessica Keep) and some get a full life? Why is there an unequal distribution of death if all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God?

Jesus deals with a similar question in Luke 13:

1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 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? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Jesus refers to two events involving unequal suffering. Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, had ordered a massacre at Passover, the most important religious sacrifice for the Jews, for sedition and had mixed the blood of those killed with the blood of their sacrifices, a most outrageous offence for the Jew. Jesus also mentions the death of many when a tower collapsed, killing 18.

The end of chapter 12 has Jesus talking about understanding the times, that God is coming in judgement against the Jews for their faithlessness and worship of foreign gods. Someone obviously thinks they aren’t as bad as that so they pipe in with those who were killed by Pilate but Jesus’ rebuke is stinging, and illustrative of God’s hand in suffering and death in this world. Jesus says to them, ’ if you think they are worse than you, think again. If you don’t turn away from your rebellion, you too will perish!’

This is gives us some insight into why Jessica Keep, a 23 month old baby, might be swept away in a flood but not the equally rebellious drug user spared from death in the Queensland floods. God’s message when we see this unequal suffering is to get ready because his judgement is coming and you are being given a second chance to repent. When we see terrible tragedies happening, we should be reminded that we have been spared from death so that we might repent – turn away from living for ourselves and to put God back in charge of our lives like he should be.

This call to repentance is given even greater significance in light of Jesus’ death. Jesus ‘died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God’ (1 Peter 3:18). Jesus, on the cross, has taken our deserved penalty of death – the innocent Jesus taking the place of guilty rebels and suffering their punishment. God, in his mercy, sent Jesus to die so that we might find be forgiven and new relationship with God.

We respond to God’s kindness in Jesus is to repent (do a 180 degree turn away from our selfish rebellion and to put God first) and put our trust in Jesus, who has secured our forgiveness. These sorts of tragedies should drive us into God’s arms.

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