About this time Jesus was informed that Pilate had murdered some people from Galilee as they were offering sacrifices at the Temple. “Do you think those Galileans were worse sinners than all the other people from Galilee?” Jesus asked. “Is that why they suffered? Not at all! And you will perish, too, unless you repent of your sins and turn to God. And what about the eighteen people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them? Were they the worst sinners in Jerusalem? No, and I tell you again that unless you repent, you will perish, too.” (NLT)
We can go to two extremes when it comes to discerning the judgement of God. One is to see God as an essentially nice guy who is not too bothered about our failures to honour him. So when bad things happen, they are just random events.
The other is to see God as just itching to hurl thunderbolts at those who displease him. So when bad things happen, we assume someone somewhere has done something bad and the bad things are God’s punishment.
Jesus warns against this second extreme. When tsunamis surge or when pandemics infect, it is best not to see these as signs of God’s displeasure or judgement on individuals caught up in such things. We are all in the same boat according to Jesus. We all face eternity away from God unless we embrace the mercy embodied in Jesus.
It is better to see natural and human caused disasters as signs of our being in a bent out of shape world. In that very general sense, such things are part and parcel of the consequences we all bear of deciding we know better than God on how to run our lives. But God is not the author of such things, He does not desire for us to experience pain and calamity.
They are best seen as prompts to return to a gracious God rather than punishments dished out by a vengeful God.