Eugene Villines of Greeley, Colorado was driving home from his job at a local Army National Guard post on his motorcycle. That’s when he was hit by lightning. Not only that, but it sent his bike into an uncontrolled skid and he crashed. Here is a video of his interview.
Villines has been interviewed many times and in one of those interviews he claims that God saved him and protected him in this bizarre accident. I found that statement curious, since it seems to ignore one other fact here.
It is very rare to get hit by lightning when you’re driving a motorcycle. There are people who might even say that getting hit by lightning “out of the blue” is more reminiscent of God’s judgment than God’s salvation. So which part involved God–the lightning or the protection in the skid?
As we continue to look at the Judgment of God, we move into decidedly New Testament territory when we seek to interpret events and circumstances. Which crises are God’s judgment? Are any of them the judgment of God? You may want to review what we’ve said so far about judgment in order to follow the conclusion that Jesus will help us come to this time.
In Luke 13, we read this curious teaching from Jesus:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
Historically, we know nothing about either of these two incidents. But that really doesn’t matter, since these two types of disasters are as common in our world today as they were in Jesus’ day. The Galileans suffered at the hands of a vindictive local governor named Pilate. Pilate obviously killed some of them and then, to emphasize his authority over them, mixed their blood with their religious sacrifices. This is yet another example of man’s inhumanity to man.
The second type of disaster seems less unjust, but no less confusing. 18 people are killed when a tower near the town of Siloam fell on them. This represents the many, many accidents that happen in our world. Whether the accident is part of nature (such as the man hit by lightning) or man-made (such as the tower) it is the same thing.
Jesus who is God come to earth, asks them the most poignant question: Were these Galileans worse sinners because they suffered this way? That is, he is asking the crowd if they believed these guys were getting what was coming to them. This is not much different from the base belief associated with the Hindu idea of Karma: That all of the bad things that happen to us are payback for bad things we have done. The big difference between the Hindu idea of payback and the Hebrew idea of it is when the sin happened. The Jews felt we get payback for things we have just done and the Hindus believe the sin happened in a past life.
But Jesus draws a different conclusion. He answers the question he asks with a resounding “No!”
No man’s sin caused these things to happen to them. They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Except for situations we looked at in the last article–where God intervened to judge quickly and decisively–it is wrong to try and ascribe God’s judgment to disaster of any kind. Why?
These disasters were not caused by the sin of the victims. We cannot tell the good from the bad by how well their lives go. We should not even bring the concept of judgment into any discussion on the meaning of a disaster. But then he adds another thought: “But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” In this teaching, Jesus brings us higher up and further in to the full teaching on judgment. First, he uses the future tense when he speaks of this moment of perishing. All who will not repent now will perish later.
Judgment is not now. Judgment is later. Therefore, the events of today, the disasters that seem to assail us left and right, are not judgment at all. So what are they?
They are occasions for all of us to see the relative insecurity of this life. They are consequences that befall a world where every person only wants their own way. Disasters sometimes are the result of very human things like greed, lust, envy, control, regret, jealousy, hatred and selfishness.
Take the news this week. Someone blew up a town square in Thailand, killing 18. Is that the judgment of God? No, it cannot be. it is the decision of a person who wanted to kill people to make a point. There are squirrels in Yosemite National Park with the Plague. Is this the judgment of God? People used to say the Black Plague was God’s purging of evil. That is, until it happened in their towns. But then, they also thought it was caused by rats. So they burned the rats, not realizing it was spread by the fleas on the rats. When the rats burned, the fleas jumped to humans and spread the disease faster.
Are these things the judgment of God? Circumstances may be a consequence, but they are not the judgment of God. This is not the age for God’s judgment; that is held over until the future age. As we will see in the next article, all judgment has been given over to Jesus. And because of that, this world in which we live will face only one judgment in this life: the consequences of the evil we do to each other and the effects our evils have had on this planet.
In our first article, I asked whether God would judge the nation for gay marriage, abortion and immoral living. My answer is simple: Eventually, yes. Right now, no. There is a judgment on sin, but it is one that is brought by the consequences of our sins as a nation. Take abortion as an example. We callously disregarded the value of an unborn life. We redefined abortion as disposing of a “fetus”. Even though evidence is overwhelming that an unborn child has all of the functions we associate with a living being, our nation has willfully disregarded that evidence.
Let’s look at another example. Starting in the 1950s, divorce became way more common than it ever was before in American history. The effect of this is that a third of all children were raised with parents that were no longer together in the same household. Single-parent households account for a much higher percentage of problems for children than dual-parent households.
What is the consequence of rising rates of abortion and divorce? We gave birth to several generations who no longer want to get married and who are not really interested in having babies. We have a negative birth rate in our country.
Russia and China are even worse. Both of those countries have higher rates of divorce and abortion, and they continue to see rapidly dropping marriage and birth rates. (Yes, I know China has a policy where each couple can only have one child. But they are actually thinking of ending that policy because they have a rapidly aging population). In addition, China has a curious problem. Because they allowed abortion on demand, most couples who could only have one child wanted a boy. When these couples found out through ultrasound they were having a girl, they aborted those babies. Under the age of 35 in China, 70% of this population are male. Do you realize what that has done? Where are the brides for these men? Do you know what happens to a culture with this kind of gender unbalance? Violence grows at a rapid pace.
Violence, lack of children, absence of marriage. These are the judgments against abortion and divorce in China. But God has nothing to do with those judgments. We bring them on ourselves. The same could be said for dramatic changes in the climate of the planet, rising cancer rates and the preponderance of new diseases and drug-resistant infections. We brought these things on ourselves.
So what will the Judgment of God look like? In the next article, we will listen as Jesus lays out the full expanse of God’s plan of Judgment.