Recently I saw a post on Facebook where an individual was stating his reasons for not believing in God or the Bible. He said that after a disaster it is not uncommon for some Christians to say of the survivors that ďGod must have had a purpose for them to live.Ē He went on to say that if God had a purpose for them to live it must imply that God had a purpose for the others to die. He did not want to worship a god that arbitrarily caused disasters in order to kill some individuals and leave only those for whom he had some divine purpose.
This personís logic appears to be sound except for one thing. It is based on a faulty premise.
That person was correct in saying that many Christians make the claim that surviving a disaster must mean that God has a reason why that person survived. Just because many Christians believe it, however, does not make it so. In fact, making that statement may lead many people to the same false conclusion this individual made.
The corollary to that statement is that if someone died in the disaster, God must have wished for them to die. This also leads to the faulty conclusion that God causes disasters in order to weed out the evil from the good.
The Jews that Jesus knew held this same belief. It can be traced back much farther in time. In the book of Job, the three friends argue that since Job has suffered the loss of family, wealth, and health, he must be an unrepentant sinner. While Job makes some really bad conclusions of his own, he is adamant that he did not sin in any way to deserve the punishment he (apparently) was being dealt.
Jesus chose to answer those who held these beliefs by saying that their beliefs were wrong. Sometimes a disaster is just a disaster. Sometimes good people die or suffer.
One time he and his disciples passed a blind man. Some of the disciples who held these beliefs asked, ďWho did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?Ē (Jn 9:2) Jesus replied that it was neither, but rather that ďhe works of God should be made manifest in him.Ē His blindness was not caused by sin. In this particular case, God may have caused his blindness, but it was so that Jesus could give him sight. In that way, those who witnessed the miracle would praise God.
On another occasion, his disciples were discussing some people who had been executed by the Romans while offering their sacrifices. Apparently they were saying that these people must have been great sinners.
And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Lk 13:2-5)
These things didnít happen to them because they were sinners, or others didnít survive because they were righteous. The Galilaeans died because Pilate made a bad choice. The eighteen died because an architect used faulty materials or cut corners in construction. If someone dies in a car crash, perhaps it is because someone chose to drink and drive. To say that God must have had a reason for that person to live or die implies that God controls every second of our lives; we donít have free will.
It may be that someone survived the recent collapse of an apartment building in Florida because God still has a purpose for their life. It may also be that some of those survivors are sinners who will never repent. We should be careful about making pronouncements about Godís intentions when we donít know his mind. And we should be careful that by making such pronouncements we donít drive someone away from God.