Summary: Jesus pleads to give you a second chance. He wants permission to dig up your roots and fertilize the soil of your heart. Are you willing?
Jesus on Current Events, Tragedies, and Evil Dictators
Pastor Jim Luthy
Did you hear about the Marine who declared he is a conscientious objector to the war in Iraq and went AWOL? He went to a press conference and said he did not believe in “peace through violence” and went on to blame his recruiter because his recruiter knew about his pacifist beliefs but failed to warn him of the violent nature of his training.
I don’t really want to talk with you about that Marine. I do want to talk about the nature of what I’ve just told you.
We like to have discussions like these. We like to talk about the things people do that don’t click with us. When I asked you if you heard about this “conscientious objector,” what was the real meaning of my question? Was I asking you to an open discussion about the validity of this guy’s actions? No. I’ve made up my mind. When you’re standing around the water cooler at work or out in the yard in the neighborhood and someone asks you if you heard about this thing or that on the news, they are most likely expressing their condemnation or bewilderment over what they’ve heard. Most often, it’s not that we’re looking for some honest dialogue to assess the situation. There is another meaning to our questions.
Most of the time, we bring up the outrageous or strange or fascinating or stupid things people do to shed light on them and take the spotlight off of us. We know the foolish things we do. Even more, we know the foolish things we think. So there is a sense, whether it be consciously or subconsciously, in which we are justifying ourselves by keeping before us and others the more outlandish things that other people do.
Why do people like Rush Limbaugh? Because he tends to say things they agree with. Why are Hollywood gossip columns and magazines so popular? Because the stars have everything in the world but still can’t make a relationship work. Doesn’t that make you feel better? The popularity of talk radio and sports radio and shows like Jerry Springer all point to the fact that we like to keep our eyes and divert everyone else’s attention to the people we think are a little more strange or a little more immoral than we are. It is a poor but popular means of self-justification.
I like the fact that the Holy Spirit saw fit to ensure that Luke was inspired to include the account in chapter 13. Someone in the crowd asked him about events that were happening in the world around him. It allows us to hear from Jesus about current events, tragedies, and evil dictators today.
Think about what questions we would ask him today? Is Operation Iraqi Freedom God’s way of judging Saddam Hussein for his tyranny? A militant Muslim would ask God the same about judgment on the United States. Was September 11 a warning of judgment against the United States, the city of New York, or capitalism? Can we look into the eyes of a camera with any kind of confidence and say, as Jerry Falwell did, “I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way—all of them who have tried to secularize America—I point the finger in their face and say, ‘You helped this happen?” Can we say that? Is AIDS a plague from God to punish those who practice homosexuality? If so, what’s up with SARS, the new Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome? Does God want to punish the Asian people now?
Let’s make it more personal: “God, who’s right, me or my wife? Did you hear what she said to me? Did you see what he did to me?” Have you ever had that discussion?
When we ask these questions, are we really trying to submit to God’s will and sovereignty, or are we just trying to justify ourselves? Aren’t we just asking God to take sides or at least to condemn the actions of those whose behavior does not meet with our approval?
This all makes me think of all those times that the kids would come anxious to tell me what their brother or sister has done. “Dad, do you know what so-and-so did?” “Dad, you wouldn’t believe what she said to me!” You parents have any experience with this? Sometimes it happens when you’re a pastor too. “Pastor Jim, have you heard what brother so-and-so has been doing?”
I like to just look at my kids and say, “Really! How ‘bout if I beat ‘em? Would that make you feel better? You wanna watch?”