“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:2-3)
When we hear of the tragic death of others, we often think thoughts like, “Those poor, innocent people,” or “They got what they deserved,” depending on the situation. When we think these thoughts, we are actually way out on a limb. When we characterize others as “innocent”, or “guilty” we are assessing whether their sin is bad or not. When we do, we miss some vital truth. First of all, every single one of us is a sinner, and as such all people are deserving of condemnation and punishment. God does not grade on a curve. His justice is pass-fail, and without Jesus all people fail. Second, the categories we put people into cannot include “innocent.” The proper legal choices are “condemned” and “pardoned.” To be pardoned, we must turn from our sin and to Jesus. To reject Jesus is to stay condemned. In this story, Jesus uses the news of tragedy to prompt people to turn and be spared from their own guilt. For all of us, this is a great first response to bad news – to check our own hearts as a first order of business.