As the global community has been deployed to provide relief to the people and land of Haiti, we still wrestle with troubling questions regarding this calamity. The fact is, we respond to world tragedies with deep, unsettling questions, don’t we? The earthquake in Haiti caused my kids to ask questions like these: Why do mind-staggering tragedies like this happen? If God is strong and powerful and loving and close, couldn’t he have prevented the devastation in Haiti? Is God punishing the people of Haiti in some way? Are the people in Haiti more unrighteous than thousands of murderers, rapists and thieves in the world, that something like this would happen to them? These questions are legitimate, but they inch me and all of us away from an appropriate personal response to world tragedy. I think I can respond appropriately to world tragedies by answering several important personal questions that Luke 13:1-9 raises – questions of mortality, eternity, and productivity.
The first question is a question of Mortality: How close am I to the end of my life?
Luke chronicles two historical events to show how indiscriminate death is. One event accounts for the evil of one man can exact on another human being. Pilate had some Galileans killed while they worshiped. These people died at the hands of an evil man. Evil people do evil things to innocent people.
The other event (which has greater relevance to the tragedy in Haiti) shows how death can happen naturally. A tower in Siloam fell and killed 18 people. Many were caught beneath the rubble, hoping and praying for someone would intervene and bring relief and rescue. Our fallen world is filled with such tragedies that break our hearts over and over again. Tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes are natural catastrophes that snatch lives out of this world each year and destroy miles and miles of valuable property. This event was so unlikely, but it happened. It was a natural disaster. Haiti has experienced one natural disaster after another. That one nation can experience so much natural disaster seems unlikely, but it has happened. This was a natural disaster. People die in natural disasters all the time, but it does not make them more sinful than anyone else.
The issue here is not the timing of death or even the cause of death. The issue is that we are mortal beings and we will all die. We love to talk about others’ deaths and tragedies just as long as it doesn’t get too personal. World tragedy is a prime opportunity for us to discuss our own mortality. Nothing is so certain as death, and nothing is so uncertain as the hour of our death. We will die, either by some horrific calamity, evil plot, cancer, car accident, or some natural cause. Most of us are not afraid to die; we just don’t want to be there when it happens. In light of this world tragedy, let us consider the question of our own mortality – How close am I to the end of my life?
If death was the end, then I think we could possibly live with that. I mean, we have lived a decent life, made a little money, enjoyed family and friends, and had some good times. But the question of Mortality causes me to consider a second question (next post) – a question of Eternity.
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