Making Sense of Atrocities and Calamities

Luke 13:1-5

2 tragedies are mentioned in Luke 13:1-5 – one massacre atrocity of Galilean worshippers by Pontius Pilate and an accident calamity of the collapse of a tower killing 18 people – which would be similar to the ISIS atrocities and the natural calamities of tsunamis, earthquakes and plane crashes today. It was natural for the people to ask Jesus our Lord to make some sense of such tragedies.

How do we usually react to such news of atrocity or calamity ?

Most will call for prayer mostly to comfort the loved ones of the deceased. But over time as I have noticed now, fatigue and familiarity set in and even call for prayer and assistance has lessened much. To be frank, sometimes I suspect it is merely a knee-jerk Christian response to show some concern and religious piety.

What should be our appropriate response as advocated by our Lord in Luke 13:1-5 ?

In my opinion, firstly our Lord seemed to emphasize that we should be more concerned with eternal life and death than physical life and death. Secondly, it was a warning that we should repent quickly without hesitation before similar calamity befall us suddenly and we are robbed of the last chance to repent. The Jews living then would face their own tragedy in AD 70.

We are now living in the beginning of the birth pangs and we should expect an exponential increase of disasters as told by our Lord. Luke 21: 10-11.  Though calamities such as major earthquakes will have heavy death toll and is likely to be flashed on TV and bringing home the agony of suffering, we often do not realize that there is daily tragedy of a bigger magnitude.

For example, the 2008 Sichuan earthquake might have killed 70,000,  but 110,000 died on the roads of China, 70,000 committed suicides and another few hundred thousand die of preventable illnesses yearly in China. Shouldn’t the church in China or everywhere be more concerned with the vagaries of life and lost souls every day instead of allowing our emotions to be stirred up by the media disproportionately ?

I do grieve over such senseless tragedy but it galvanizes me to witness and share about spiritual preparation with even more urgency, since more hardship should be anticipated in greater intensity as the birth pains intensify in these last days.

Many will encounter the plague of mourning or hopelessness, famine and death in this last period of the last days. We are already seeing a tragic sizable number of suicides in churches today. Like what Mother Teresa said, the poor man died of starvation not because God did not help him but because we as the church did not help. Likewise for many who are suffering emotional oppression, it is our duty to share the gospel as well as relieving the oppressed and setting the captives free.

Let’s start praying for the less fortunate, the emotionally oppressed and the physically challenged in our midst with more urgency today and take action to help which will be more practical.

Postscript : However, do not get me wrong.  It is good that we pray for the sufferers suffering at the time of disaster and ask God to use us as vessels of hope as well.  (In the Sichuan and Tacloban disasters, we have prayed for relief in sending basic necessities and solar lamps directly to the disaster area which God provided so promptly.  All glory to His amazing grace forever !)   But not miss out the bigger picture of sharing the gospel with the unsaved in our midst with greater urgency and compassion.

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