On Expelling the Accuser, not the Victim

It seems that every time a hurricane or other natural disaster strikes, there are some religious leaders who proclaim that the disaster was a punishment from God. This is an old game. During the Middle Ages, for example, plagues were routinely blamed on the Jews or on those who tolerated their existence in the city. Interestingly, such accusations are still leveled mainly at unpopular minorities, such as homosexuals. If God is punishing New York for its wickedness, why not suggest God is punishing the city for the misconduct of financial leaders?

Does Jesus go for this sort of blaming game? On the contrary, Jesus insists that the eighteen people killed when the Tower of Siloam fell on them were not worse sinners than the rest (Luke 13:4). Jesus sounds threatening when he says others will likewise perish if they do not repent, but Jesus is not exasperated by the people killed by the falling tower, but by the people who thought the victims were greater sinners. Jesus is reminding us that the disasters that fall on other people can just as easily fall on us, regardless of how good or bad we are.

A stronger repudiation of this blaming theology comes in John 9 when Jesus’ disciples ask if it was the blind man’s parents who sinned or the blind man himself that he was born blind. Jesus replies that neither were to blame, but the man was born blind that so the “works of God might be manifest in him.” That is, nobody was blamed for the blindness, but Jesus responded to the situation by giving the man his sight.

Most important of all, Jesus was executed because he was blamed for the social unrest in Jerusalem when any historian can see numerous causes that had nothing to do with Jesus. When Jesus rose from the dead, he did not cast blame on his killers, but returned as the forgiving victim. Is it credible that Jesus would encourage his heavenly father to send hurricanes to people who don’t measure up to his standards?

On the contrary, the story of the man born blind makes it clear that that the proper response to catastrophes is not blaming but compassion. That is, we should do everything we can to manifest God’s works in the face of these catastrophes. The name Satan means “Accuser.” In Revelation 12, Satan was cast out of Heaven when Jesus was raised into Heaven. With Jesus, there is no room for accusation. There is only room for healing the afflicted and doing everything we can to prevent or mitigate further catastrophes.

See also Two Ways of Gathering and article Violence and the Kingdom of God

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