Do you think they were more guilty than everyone else? 

When something bad happens to you, are you ever tempted to think,  “Maybe I deserve this; maybe God is punishing me because of some sin I have committed”?   Or maybe a similar thought crosses your mind when you hear about a friend who has just suffered a loss.   This line of thinking may even be a way to make sense out of natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes.

That same thought was on the minds of the people Jesus was speaking to in Scripture (Luke 13:4).   They asked him whether the Galileans killed by Pilate deserved their fate.   Was it because these Galileans were great sinners, they wondered, that God had allowed Herod to slaughter them in the Temple?   Jesus’ answer was probably not what they expected.   Neither these poor Galileans nor the people who died when a tower fell on them were guiltier than anyone else.   He didn’t explain why these tragedies happened at all.

This is one of the great challenges of the Christian life:  we don’t always understand why God allows such things to happen.   It’s one of those mysteries we will never grasp—at least this side of heaven.

But this we know for sure:  we don’t have a vengeful God.   He isn’t counting up our sins, waiting to strike us down when we exceed some limit.   That doesn’t sound like the kind of God who sent his only Son to earth to offer his life for us on the cross.   Immeasurable mercy and eye-for-eye judgment simply can’t coexist.

Pain, heartache, and loss come to everyone at some point in life.   If that describes you now, cling to this truth:  God still cares about you.   He still loves you.   Just as Jesus mourned when his friend Lazarus died, know that he is mourning with you.   Through every tear you shed and every sorrow you experience, he is with you, offering you his comfort.   If this doesn’t describe your life right now, cling to this truth when you encounter someone who is suffering.

You are not a sinner who deserves punishment.   As Pope Francis said about himself, you are a sinner whom the Lord has looked upon with mercy.   That’s the good news of the gospel!

Word Among Us