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July 22, 2012

There’s an interesting scene in Jesus’ life where he was asked about some Galilean rebels who were killed by the Romans.  I guess they were probing for a particular answer–namely, they wanted Jesus to say that they were killed as punishment for their behavior.  It’s the same deal when we hear about someone dying in a car crash and we ask, ‘were they wearing seatbelts?’

Such a thing is human nature.  When confronted with a fate we are afraid of, we want an assurance that it will never happen to us.  We want Jesus to say, “oh they died because they were the biggest jerks in the world.” or “they died because they made this or that mistake, or failed to take this or that precaution.”  But instead he says, “they were normal in every way.  They were no worse than the rest of you.  What happened to them, could happen to you at any time, and there’s nothing you can do about it.  So repent and be forgiven, or it will be the end of you.”

And you know, it’s true.  No one lives forever.  Even if we happen to avoid car crashes and cancer and war, we all get old and die.  We want control, but we’ll never have it.  We want balance, but it doesn’t exist in this world.  If there is an uniquely appalling crime, we want it to be committed by a unique criminal but it doesn’t always happen that way.  An otherwise unremarkable 24 year old man can murder 14 people.  That is the world we live in.

Jesus wants us to confront this reality so we can make the right decision.  Ironically, this is what I would show those Westboro guys if I ever met them.  When Jesus calls for repentance, he does it plainly and with great love, and offers forgiveness for anyone who wants it.

Just so we are clear: this is Jesus speaking.  It’s not one man’s opinion on the matter.  This is the master of the universe.  We want assurances in this world–assurances that everything will be perfect, that as long as we do x and y then bad things won’t happen, assurances that we won’t sit down to a movie and get killed by a crazy man with a shotgun.  This is the ruler of all creation, the one being in the universe who could give such assurances to us.  And he refuses.

People talk about the attributes of God as if they are opposed, but they’re not.  God is love and God is just.  He is both of those things.  His plan for the world has been the same from the very beginning.  Old Testament God is the same God that sent Jesus to be a sacrifice for us, the same God that is slow to anger and delights in showing mercy and giving us good things.

And here he is in the flesh, telling us that bad things may happen to us, and that we need to come back to him.  He is telling us that nothing is certain in life, except the promises God has made.  He loves us!  He wants us to know him, and knowing him is so important and so wonderful that it’s worth giving up our illusions of safety and our striving for wealth and comfort.

It’s worth living in a world where we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

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