The world is yet again numbed by the senseless atrocity of Las Vegas this week. Shock, horror and grief have gripped the U.S. Inevitably cascading from this deluge of killing are the questions: “Why?” “How?” “Who?” There are no shortage of Christian reflections on this, so this one isn’t intended to be all-encompassing that accounts for every nuance. But one angle is worth considering because the biblical account parallels the one we’ve witnessed.
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.”
Jesus recounts two stories likely well-known to his audience. One would fit under the category of “natural disaster”; the other under “deliberate evil.” There are two takeaways for us in Jesus’ short teaching.
The first is the victims of Las Vegas weren’t being punished because they were worse sinners than all the rest. Some “Christians” appallingly make this accusation every time something like this happens. Not only is this pure hubris, but it is also a contradiction of Jesus’ words to us.
The second takeaway is that this event occurs for the benefit of those who survive and the watching world who witness this from afar. Jesus used both the natural disaster and the deliberate evil to call the living to repentance. Events like the one in Las Vegas remind us of the fragility and brevity of life. Human beings only get one life to repent from sin and turn to Christ in faith.
Where appropriate, Jesus’ way should be the Christian’s way as well. We should be quick to say this shooting is not God judging a group of people as worse than all the rest. And, this is opportunity to call the living to repentance and faith in Christ.