Pilate was responsible for the death of certain Galileans (Lk. 13:1). The Jews to whom Jesus ministered were obviously upset that a Roman officer would allow his soldiers to shed the blood of Jewish Galileans who were worshiping God in offering sacrifices. How could God allow this? When Jesus was told this, He answered, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:2-3). We tend to think the circumstances we find ourselves in are directly linked to our standing before God. If something bad happens to us, it is natural to question if we have done something wrong. Some people get angry at God, because they expect everything to go right for them if they are trying to serve Him. Jesus dispels this notion. Suffering is not always directly related to sin. However, when suffering occurs, we should take stock of our lives and repent, if need be, rather than getting angry at God or drifting away from Him.
On the flip side, we should not allow good things we enjoy in life to lead us away from God either. Romans 2:4 says that the goodness of God leads us to repentance. Thus, we should be ready to repent when bad things happen and when good things happen. How can we have the proper attitude to repent in both circumstances?
We must first remember what we deserve. The reason many don’t grasp repentance today is because they think God owes them a pleasant life with no suffering. But in reality, what God owes us is far different than this popular myth. We have all sinned (Rom. 3:23). The just payment for our sins is death (Rom. 6:23). We cannot of our own efforts redeem ourselves from this death sentence (Rom. 3:24; Eph. 2:7-9; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). If we sacrificed all we have to God, it would not atone for our sins (Heb. 9:12). The only accountable person who was completely innocent was Jesus, the one who was crucified by Roman soldiers by the command of Pilate, at the request of the Jews, outside the gates of the city where animal sacrifices were continually made to God (Lk. 23:13-48). Because of obstinate hearts that called for the murder of God’s holy Son, blood would flow in the streets of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Lk. 13:34; 21:20-24). But really all of us deserve to have our blood mingled with our sacrifices to God. My sins put Jesus on that cross (Isa. 53:5; 1 Pet. 2:24).
Secondly, we must also see that God is committed to redeeming us. Just after this in Luke 13, Jesus presents the parable of the fruitless fig tree that deserves to be hewn; however, the keeper of the vineyard is committed to giving the tree another chance to bear fruit before it is cut down (Lk. 13:6-9). It is not enough to beat ourselves up over our sins that run afoul of God’s holiness. We must also see God’s love for us. We must consider God’s goodness as well as His severity (Rom. 11:22). In Luke 15:22-24, God is represented as a father who, instead of relegating his prodigal son to the status of a servant, throws a merry feast and adorns him with fine attire fit for a beloved son. God’s commitment to blessing us by saving us from what we deserve is the source of Christian joy and the motivation for all true repentance.
This is how we are able to repent in good times and bad. When bad times come, we remember we deserve far worse. When good comes our way, we don’t say, “It’s about time!” No, we remember we don’t deserve any of the good things God has placed in our lives. Whatever your circumstances, good or bad, contrast what you deserve with what you receive and be ready to repent.