Right after “September 11” of 2001, a number of preachers came out and seemed to imply that the terrorist attacks were God’s judgment for the sins of America. Again, the same thing happened following Hurricane Katrina, when it hit land in New Orleans. It seems that whenever some national tragedy occurs, there is an element of evangelical pastors that come forward and speak in a very public way claiming that God is judging the people.
Well, here we are in April of 2020 and we are facing a global pandemic. Thousands of people have died, and predictably, some preachers have come out and suggested that God is again judging the people.
Every time this happens, I begin to seriously doubt my commitment to freedom of speech. I believe very strongly that people should be allowed to speak freely. I also believe very strongly that I don’t have to listen. As a preacher, I strongly value my right to speak out and proclaim my faith in Jesus Christ. Yet when these preachers step on to their very public platform and proclaim what they do, I cringe. I have this urge to find some way to turn off their microphone. I want to shout out to the rest of the world that these preachers don’t represent me, nor do they represent the entirety of the evangelical Christian faith.
Jesus in Luke 13 finds himself addressing the exact same mindset that existed even in his day.
Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Here some people have come to Jesus and they are saying that something terrible has happened and they are asking Jesus why it happened to those people specifically. We often think that when bad things happen, that the victim must have had some terrible sin. Jesus even made reference to this when He basically asked the question if the people who died under the tower were worse sinners than everyone else. It is a fascinating question that we should apply to our current situation.
Who are the worse sinners: Americans or Chinese? The Americans are suffering greatly under this pandemic. So also are the Chinese. What about Italians? Then of course, why is it that seniors are suffering and dying at such greater rates then much of the rest of the population? Are the seniors of this age such terrible sinners relative to the rest of us?
Listening to Jesus, the flawed thinking of these supposed prophetic voices becomes very obvious. We can never know for sure what sins people have committed, and what events represent God’s judgment on sin. What we do know however is that when terrible things happen, we all should take a very close look at our own lives and ask the question – what sins do I need to repent of? What things in my life do I need to change in order to improve my relationship with God and others? When tragedy strikes, it should remind us that death is potentially just around the corner, and force us to rethink our walk. Jesus urges the people in light of tragedy to give consideration to our own spiritual state. All of us need to repent.
So, don’t let people tell you that COVID-19 is God’s judgment on the people. Only God knows for sure. What we do know is that this is a great time to reflect on our own lives and repent.