Whan Bad Things Happen
Do you think some people suffer because they are worse sinners than others? It's an uncomfortable question that usually goes unspoken, but Jesus poses it directly. Terrible things happen in this world, and human minds seek and invent patterns to find reasons for such catastrophes so we can be confident that we might prevent them from happening to us.
While we know from experience that some of our actions cause us to suffer, we cannot reason backwards from that. We cannot assume that if someone is sufferiing, it's because they did something wrong. The rain falls on the just and the unjust.
While Jesus asserts that no one is a worse sinner for being on the receiving end of suffering, he complicates matters by adding, 'But unless you repent, you will all perish as they did." (Luke 13:3). Repentence ---metanois in Greek --- literally means "turning around." A sense of urgency comes into the story, and a sense of personal accountability. Jesus is calling us to quit trying to infer from other people's suffering what they might have done wrong. Instead, Jesus says, Look at yourself and your own actions and their natural consequences. Are you living the way God calls you to live?
Lutheran theology teaches that baptism is a lifelong process. It is a daily invitation to repent, to let go of what fails us and let the grace of God refresh us like a cool drink on a hot day.
Bad things happen to good people because bad things happen to all of us sooner or later. Every day, however, we are invited into a fresh start, a choice of how we want to live, and the unyielding love of God gives us strength to carry on.