3/31/17 Bob about 40
"I see death everyday. Most of the deceased got up that morning thinking it would be just another normal day. They had no idea it would be their last". I had begun an outreach conversation with a middle-aged man named Bob, who is a Chicago paramedic. He was explaining why he no longer believes in God; how he has grown callous to the horrible injuries and death he sees so often and because of how random life and death seems.
It seems like people take one of two directions when confronted with tragedy. The fragile and temporary nature of life may serve to remind them of their need to prepare for eternity and establish a right relationship with God. Or they might turn away from God in anger, or, even worse, indifference. Bob seemed to have gone the latter direction, away from faith in God.
The randomness of life can be troubling. People often assume that if life and death are random, then God is either not good or not in control, or both, and, therefore, a good and sovereign God can not exist. I believe this "random" nature of life comes from the idea that certain people deserve to live a long healthy life while others do not, yet we see that all too often unexpected tragedy plays no favorites. "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." (Matt 5) God doesn't necessarily give us special treatment just because we are believers, or do something good, or because we are extra obedient.
Jesus spoke of this in Luke 13 where He used two events, a political tragedy and a natural catastrophe, to explain of our common need for repentance. After his first example about a tragedy involving Pilate and some Galilean victims, he spoke of a natural disaster: "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? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
The Jews at the time believed strongly that misfortune was the direct result of one's sins. We aren't that different as we are so quick to believe that God is unfair. But Jesus told of these two incidents to explain that all of us are living on borrowed time, that really none of us are righteous, that we are all sinners in need of repentance and forgiveness.
He went on with a parable to explain why, despite our sins, any of us are allowed another year or even another day of life: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”
God wants to reap a harvest of repentance in our lives, and He graciously gives us time, though there is no guarantee how much, so that we may respond. We read much the same in 2 Peter 3: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."
After several minutes Bob softened his hard stance that "God doesn't exist", and we went on to a conversation assuming He does indeed exist. We talked about how through Christ we can have a right relationship with our Creator. I don't believe in using fear tactics so I try not to hold it over anyone's head, but even someone like Bob, who sees death every day, needs a reminder that tomorrow is not guaranteed.