The ever compassionate, mild, meek, politically savvy Messiah answers the people by saying, “You think that is bad? If you don’t change your ways the same thing will happen to you?”
UNLESS YOU REPENT, YOU WILL ALL PERISH AS THEY DID. (2x)
Jesus is answering the two questions behind their question…
1) Is suffering a sign of God’s wrath?
Suffering in this life does not indicate God’s judgment necessarily. If suffering always meant God’s wrath then we wouldn’t have the book of Job, the witness of John the Baptist, or the torture and death of Jesus Christ. No, suffering in this life cannot be yoked with God’s wrath. Suffering is not a sign of God’s wrath, but lack of repentance assures it.
2) Can I be comforted to not be as “bad” as someone else?
The people wanted to know if there was something in the character of the Galileans killed by Pilate that created their deserving of such a demise. Jesus says that their demise was not brought on by their sins anymore than the questioner’s living today was brought on by goodness.
There is a difference between a witness and a comparison. A witness enlivens the common good by pointing to God’s grace. Comparison lifts up one group by putting another group down. Comparison makes me feel better. Witness makes us all better.
1) The body of believers becomes divided.
When we are comparing ourselves against others we lose perspective and compassion. When we focus on who is in and who is out, who is right and who is wrong, who is good and who is bad, who believes the Bible and who doesn’t we squander the gift of unity that God uses to grow the church and change the culture around us.
2) “Soil is wasted”
Comparison can lead us to think, “I may as well not try, I can’t do it like them!” And in so doing we refuse to engage in the arena because we have allowed comparison to squelch the possibilities of how God wants to use us.
When we spend time comparing ourselves to others rather than doing the hard work of repentance we waste precious time and resources. When we talk about how bad the other side is rather than do the hard work of submitting to the Holy Spirit and bearing fruit. But God only looks for the fruit. Not the comparison.