Every Monday is called “Tear Gas Monday” in Kenya. During my recent trip, we watched the late evening news as protesters poured into the streets of Nairobi and the police responded with increasing violence. The riots spread to Kisimu on the shores of Lake Victoria the next week. Witnesses say that police opened fire on the crowd and a 5-year-old boy was shot in the back. Opposition between the political parties in the build up to next year’s presidential elections is the cause and the danger is real. In the elections of 2007-8 more than a 1000 people were killed as tribal rivalries led to blood. It could be worse this election season.
There’s nothing new under the sun. In Jesus’ day Pilate, the Roman Governor of Palestine, murdered Jewish pilgrims as they offered sacrifices in the Temple precincts in Jerusalem. Whenever and wherever we face this kind of sudden, swift destruction of human life, it scares us. One of our defense mechanisms is to believe that somehow these victims must have been personally guilty of some hidden sin. Then we have a rational explanation for the abrupt cut down. But Jesus won’t let us get away with this false idea. His answer, however, is not what many would expect from the gentle prophet of Galilee.
“Now some showed up at that very time and were telling Him about the Galileans—those whose blood Pilate mixed with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus replied, “Are you concluding that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered these things? Absolutely not! I tell you that if you don’t repent, all of you will perish like them. Or what about the eighteen who had the tower of Siloam fall and kill them; do you think that they were worse debtors than all the other people who live in Jerusalem? Absolutely not! I tell you if you don’t repent, all will perish like them.” Luke 13:1-5
In our “love wins,” “everyone is okay” culture we get angry at this kind of talk from Jesus, but He’s the One who tells us the truth. Sudden death doesn’t strike only in the street violence of Kenya, it strikes here and eventually it strikes all of us. Our sin is the cause, but if we stop pretending and face the reality of our sin, we can be set free from the fear of death. Repenting—turning away from our sin and to Jesus, the Savior—that’s the choice the crowd faced in the first century. That’s the choice we face today.
LORD, calm the bloodshed in Kenya and here. You command us to pray for our leaders, whatever political party, so that there might be peace and quiet and we can keep sharing the Gospel. May your honest, just, and loving statements about sudden catastrophe in today’s passage move many to wake up and not delay their decision to trust in You.
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