Is Haiti Being Judged?
Jan 21, 2010 by Craig Blomberg | 0 Comments
“Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 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? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’" (Luke 13:1-5)
Pat Robertson is reported as having declared the earthquake in Haiti part of God’s judgment on that nation—esp. for its corruption and false religions. I don’t know if the report is accurate, but it appears he’s said things like that before, most notably after the tsunami in Indonesia a few years back. He managed to get the American missionaries kicked out of Venezuela when he said he thought the U.S. should take out Chavez. I suspect it’s past time for him to stop making public statements on world events altogether!
Of course, any time one nation, culture or part of the world experiences a “natural disaster,” some Christians are going to assume God’s judgment on them. And this is always possible. Interestingly, however, in the Bible, more often than not it is God’s people whom he judges through such events, not foreigners or those of other religions. Plus, the New Testament does not particularly reinforce the unique Old Testament arrangement with Israel—blessing for obedience and punishment for disobedience—by directly applying it to the church. Even in the Old Testament it was not a covenantal arrangement God made with any other nation besides Israel.
Jesus’ words quoted above are the most directly relevant New Testament teaching anywhere to how to respond to public tragedies and accidents, yet they seem surprisingly little known and cited. We don’t know the specifics of the incidents Jesus cites. Josephus reports several massacres Pilate inflicted on people under his jurisdiction, so the slaughter referred to here is very conceivable. But it may have been on too small a scale to make it into the other history books of the day. Nor do we know anything about the accident in Siloam. Again, given the lack of technology the ancients had, there must have been many buildings that fell or crumbled, often creating even higher casualties.
But we don’t need any further detail to understand Jesus’ point. He is directly disputing the view that humans can usually discern a degree of wickedness greater among those suffering such tragedies than among others. Instead, he uses it as a timely reminder of the fact that all of us our mortal and will all face final judgment one day. If we have never repented and become right with God, or if we have let our faith or faithfulness lapse and we need to return to him, such horrible events should be important trigger points to help us do precisely that.
One of the most discouraging things about high-profile individuals whose misguided views on disasters are widely cited is the scorn that skeptics and critics subsequently unleash with renewed vigor against Christians more generally. If one’s goal really is for the lost to repent, this kind of pontification after a disaster proves dramatically counterproductive.
What Robertson needs to do, according to Jesus—what we all need to do—is take personal stock of our own lives, not those of anyone else, and ask what we need to repent of. Are we taking for granted that we have tomorrow to make amends, when we really know we can’t know that for sure?