There’s one thing more certain than death and taxes. It’s that when someone is diagnosed with a dangerous disease—especially a potentially terminal illness like cancer—someone else will immediately want to tell them about a miraculous cure.
“My sister had that same thing,” they’ll say. “And she went down to Mexico and saw this amazing shaman…”
If not Mexico, then the Philippines. Or China. Or Peru.
I tend to be sceptical about miracle cures. About anything miraculous, in fact.
I don’t question the sincerity of those who describe the miracles. Nor do I doubt that the miracle has changed their lives.
But we rarely hear from the people who didn’t experience the same miracle.
I don’t believe they simply lacked faith. Or that God plays favourites.
In the Bible, God made a promise to Abraham and his offspring: “An everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you…”
Abraham’s descendents became 12 tribes. Among them, the tribe of Benjamin.
When a visitor from the tribe of Levi stopped overnight in Benjamin territory, some randy young men violated the conventions of hospitality. The Levite pushed his woman out the door to appease them. The men spent the night raping her.
When she died of her injuries—does this sound like some recent news from India?—the Levite demanded vengeance. The other 11 tribes annihilated the tribe of Benjamin. Men, women, children, livestock—everyone.
Read the story for yourself: Judges, chapters 19-21.
Yet the people of Benjamin were just as legitimate inheritors of God’s support as the tribes that wiped them out. Somehow I doubt that they would have exulted, like a later psalmist: “Surely the Lord is our help, our defender…”
I’ve written before about the Canadian holidaying in Indonesia when the 2004 tsunami struck. As he was being swept out to sea, he cried out, “Lord Jesus, save me!”
Sure enough, the next wave swept him back to land.
Again, I don’t doubt that it happened exactly as he described it. Or that he genuinely believes Jesus saved him from drowning.
But we don’t hear from the others who also called on Jesus, and didn’t get rescued. They’re not around to tell us their story.
“Histories,” Winston Churchill is reputed to have said, “are written by the victors.” More accurately, by the survivors.
No one can ask Nancy Lanza, for example, if she changed her mind about guns ensuring her safety after her son used them to shoot and kill her.
At one time, the city of Carthage in North Africa rivalled Rome as a centre of culture and learning. Its empire surpassed Rome’s in size and affluence. Apparently founded by the Phoenicians, who also invented the so-called Roman alphabet we still use today, Carthage had a history 2,000 years longer than upstart Rome.
We have all heard of Rome’s fame. But how many of us know anything about Carthage? When Rome won the Punic Wars, it erased Carthage.
I’m not suggesting that miracles don’t happen. Just that when we hear about them, we’re hearing from the winners, not the losers.