Luke 13.1-5 (Click here to read on YouVersion)
First-century Judaism had a bad habit of categorizing people into an us v. them mentality. Actually, twenty-first-century Christians have a bad habit of doing the same thing. We put ourselves in the "good/us" category and everyone else in the "bad/them" category.
This passage today is Jesus' warning against that kind of thinking. He uses examples of Galilean Jews involved in some sort of political uprising against the Roman Empire and shortly thereafter massacred by the Roman military.
Then, He uses the example of a building collapse that killed 18 people. Apparently the way religious people rationalized such a tragedy was to say that the building collapse was God's judgment on those 18 sinful people. [Haven't we all heard preachers do the same thing with modern-day tragedies?]
But Jesus tells us that these people weren't any more or less sinful than us. And He warns the people of Jerusalem that if they don't embrace God's Kingdom that they will suffer deaths similar to the examples He gave. Why? Because Jesus knows that the leading forces in Jerusalem are increasingly advocating for violence and hatred. But His Kingdom offers alternative principles like peaceful living, radical forgiveness, and love for enemies.
Jesus knew that first-century Jerusalem was headed toward a major catastrophe if they didn't embrace the Kingdom of God and its principles. And that's exactly what happened in 70AD when the city was utterly destroyed by the Romans after a violent rebellion.
God knows the consequences of our sin. That's why he so passionately calls us out of sin. That's why He was willing to pay the ultimate price for our sin through the cross. He knows that "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 3.23). He knows that eventually, we will no longer be able to out-run our sin and catastrophe awaits.
What do we do then? We repent. That means we turn from our sin and we turn to Christ, embracing His sacrifice and embracing His Kingdom and Kingdom ethics: peaceful living, radical forgiveness, and love for enemies.
I'm not saying that when bad things happens it's because we have sinned. Neither is Jesus. But He is saying that sometimes we become victims of a self-created hell due to our own choices. And, of course, one day we will all face an eternity. Christ offers us hope of eternal life and resurrection--victory over death.
Repentance is not just a one-time thing. It's a lifelong bent toward Christ and away from the sins of our flesh. It's conciously giving to God our sin and embracing things like peaceful living, radical forgiveness, and love for enemies.
What ways can you turn something over to God today? And in what ways do you need His grace to enable you to live peacefully with others, forgive others, and love others?