Why Did It Happen?
Princess Diana died in Paris from injuries suffered in an automobile crash in the early morning hours of August 31, 1997. According to French police reports, Henri Paul, the driver of the vehicle was driving about 120 mph through a tunnel. He was trying to evade photographers on motorcycles who were attempting to get pictures of Diana. He was probably drunk. Dianaís companion, Dodi Fayed, and Paul were killed in the crash. Princess Diana died in the hospital shortly afterward. A security guard, the only one in the vehicle wearing a seat belt, survived.
Is this a judgment of God on a "bad princess" or on an "evil nation"?
We need to consider the words of our Savior in regard to similar situations:
There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, "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. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:1-5).
Placing The Blame
Who was at fault in the incidents that our Savior mentioned?
Obviously, Pilate and his soldiers were responsible for directly killing those Galileans. However, those Galileans also must have known that their sacrificing independently from the established Jewish religion accepted by the Romans made them look like an independent group that might attempt to overthrow the Romans.
In the second example, we have to ask: Who owned the tower? Who was in charge of its maintenance? Most structures that collapse exhibit obvious physical symptomsbut since they may not collapse right away, people often get used to the symptoms and no longer concern themselves. In both of these cases, it was probably possible for the individuals involved to foresee the evil and avoid it (Prv 27:12).
In summary, we see a variety of sins that caused the above disasters. There are sins of commission: sending soldiers to kill and soldiers killing; there are sins of omission: failing to properly maintain a tower and failing to warn others when it is unsafe; and there are sins of failing to look out for oneís own safety and going along with the crowd. We do not know how many people there were in the above examples that knew that Pilate would send soldiers after the Galilean group or that knew the tower was in danger of collapse. Maybe some people didmaybe they could have warned others.
In the case of Princess Dianaís death, there were plenty of sins on the part of many. A number of individuals and groups of individuals had a chance to prevent that death but did not. The driver should have refused to drive in his drunken stateeven though he may have lost his job because of it. The people who hired and dispatched the driver could have been more diligent to be sure that he was fit for the job that night. The three passengers in the car could have fastened their seatbelts. They could have sensed his drunkenness and refused to ride with him, in spite of their compelling desire to get on with the evenings activities. The photographers should have valued the life of the Princess more than their pictures and should not have chased the vehicle at unsafe speeds.
Publishers should refuse to publish pictures of personal events that are obtained in an illegal or dangerous manner. And everyone should refuse to buy magazines that make merchandise of the private lives of individuals. Did you have a little part in princess Dianaís death?
Unfortunately, the typical government reaction to accidents such as this one is to propose more traffic laws or laws requiring more safety equipment in vehicles. But in this case, the vehicle was an armored Mercedes-Benz, far safer than most people can afford. The driver and the photographers knew the traffic lawsand were probably quite willing to pay any fines they might have incurred breaking them. The problem stemmed from the people involvedthere were too many who were willing to sin.
Time and Chance
The point of our Saviorís message is that if we do not repentif we do not change to live His way of lifewe also will die a meaningless deathmaybe early, maybe late in our life. The Bible indicates that the righteous will suffer persecution in this life (Matt 5:10, Mark 10:30, Heb 11:35), but they will understand the reason for itknowing that it will be for ultimate good.
We can be fairly sure Diana was not concentrating on what God expected of her that nightshe was far more interested in a nice meal and evening away from photographers. The Eternal is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34).
Nearly everyday, people die in high-speed automobile crashesmost are young, and far too many are drunk. Why does this continue? Because for every person who dies in a crash, there are hundreds more who drive too fast but survive unscathed.
This was not the first time Diana was driven at high speed. As people grow to trust a faulty tower that is still standing, so they learn to trust high speed drivers, as long as they are not involved in a crash.
As our Savior pointed out, it is not always the worst sinners who die in such disasters. Some people who die in such disasters are apparently "good people," while others have a long history of criminal activity. Princess Diana died the same way that so many "common people" die. She did not have any divine protectionif she did, she would still be alive. On the other hand, her death does not prove that she was particularly worse than anyone else.
There is no doubt that Diana had her sins, but they seem no worse than the rest of the royal house. She had her extramarital affairs, but so did her ex-husband Charles and much of the rest of the royal family. One of the biggest complaints about her was her lack of formalitythat she would not follow all of the formalities expected of a princess, that she regularly mixed with "commoners," that she did not insist that others bow or curtsy to her. Most people do give her credit for using her fame to draw attention to and raise money for a number of charitable purposes. She was by far more successful at this than any other member of the royal house today. While this writer cannot endorse every one of the causes which she supported, it is obvious that she was trying to use her position to better the life of othersnot simply to enjoy herself.
Biblical View of Kings
What does the Bible say about kings and rulers? Does it place emphasis on the way people should respect the rulers, or on what the rulers should do for the people?
The first thing we must learn from the Bible is that we should not even have a king or queen! God would rather rule over us directly (1Sam 8). But if people insist on having a king, He will still work with them as long as they continue to obey Him (1Sam 12). King Solomon certainly reached the height of pomp, ceremony, and splendor (1Kng 10, 2Chr 9). When the Queen of Sheba visited, she was impressed beyond measure. But the Eternal was not impressed. He was more concerned that Solomon had disobeyed His specific commandments to kings (1Kng 11). It was only because of Davidís faithfulness that the kingdom remained intact during Solomonís reign (1Kng 11:12). In the five books of Moses, there are only seven verses that give specific instruction to a king, and Solomon terribly violated them:
When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, "I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me," you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, "You shall not return that way again." Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself. Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel (Deut 17:14-20).
Solomon had many horses, he had many wives, he returned to religions of Egypt, he had much silver and gold for himself by taxing the people, his heart became lifted up above his brethren, and he turned aside from the commandment of the Eternal. There is no record that he ever wrote a copy of the law or read from it every day (whereas David didPsalm 119:97).
Even to this day, many people think that because of the difficulty and pressure of their job, it is acceptable for "royalty" to live a luxurious life at the expense of the people and to commit fornication, adultery and other sins that would be unacceptable for "common people." The Eternal makes no such provision! Rather, our Savior gave this instruction to his disciples:
The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called "benefactors." But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves (Luke 22:25-26).
The British Royalty
Most "royalty" today has incredible focus on "titles" and "respect". The Eternal clearly places the focus on service and righteousnessboth in dealings of state, and in personal righteousness. When our Savior walked the Earth, he never established any procedures, pomp, or titles for addressing either Himself or his followers. The instructions for choosing leaders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are mostly about finding people who are righteous in their personal lives. The Eternal gives no special honor to a ruler who makes "good head-of-state decisions" but has a corrupt personal life.
The history of British royalty is much like that of the kings of Israel recorded in the Bible. A very few were good, many were part good and part bad, and some were very bad. While multiple wives are no longer in style, some members of the current royal family simply have had a great many sexual partners which they never married. Nearly all had armies, security forces, and lived a life of luxury at the expense of the people they were supposed to serve. The King or Queen of England is the head of the Anglican Churcha church quite similar in government, practice, and doctrine to the Roman Catholic Church. With a few notable exceptions, the English royalty has done little to govern England or to do good in the world, but consumes a lot of resources.
We must realize that worldly kings, even if they are descended from King David himself, do not represent the Eternal and His government. Deuteronomy 28, the great prophecy of how the Eternal ultimately deals with those who disobey, specifically covers kings:
The Lord will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your fathers. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone. You will become a thing of horror and an object of scorn and ridicule to all the nations where the LORD will drive you (Deut 28:36-37, NIV).
While Princess Diana did not escape the sins so common in the English royal family, she did make an notable individual effort to forego the "we are more important than you" customs and to really serve the people. Whereas many wealthy women die with closets full of clothesthe outfits that they wore to the special occasions in their lives, Diana sold almost everything she wore at auction and donated millions in proceeds to charity. In effect, she caused people with extra money to voluntarily contribute to charity for the privilege of receiving her "used clothing." This is far superior to other leaders that frequently use their "status" to convince, entice, or force poorer people to pay into an endless stream of taxes, lotteries, insurance and other overly-expensive items that benefit the leaders more than the people.
It May All Work For Good
We are not Dianaís judge, nor are we the judge of the English royal family. One who judges in righteousness and truth will do that (Rev 19:11). It is unlikely that anyone reading this will reform the British Royalty. Maybe, this tragedy will cause young prince William or Harry to finish what their mother only began to doto dispense with many of the customs and barriers that produce a false sense of superiority among the "royalty". One or both of these young men could look into the Bible and seek to understand what the Eternal expects of them and their people. They could cry out and show their people their sins (Is 58:1) in a way that almost no one else on Earth could. When they speak, a good portion of the world will listen. If these young men do rise up to show their family, their country, and the Anglican church how far they have strayed from the Eternal and the Bible, their motherís untimely death would not be in vain. This writer has prayed that these young men will have that opportunity. Whether or not they will accept such a challenge depends on them, and to a lesser degree, their advisors. If we can learn anything from the Old Testament, it is that the Eternal often does not force human leaders to do anything.
In summary, Princess Diana did much to break down the overemphasis on formality by the English royalty and made a real effort to serve peoplethough she had obvious problems of her own. Her death was a happenstance in a world where numerous people live without regard to Bible teachings and common sense. Unfortunate experiences, similar to hers, occur in the lives of other families almost every day. Her death can be a great blessing to many if they will learn from it and change their lives. Her sons, William and Harry, suffered the greatest loss in this tragic event. They also stand to gain the most if this event triggers even a little of the massive repentance and change that is needed in their family and their country.
It is good for us to understand this important world event, but it is more important that we understand and correct the state of our own lives and families. We will be individually held accountable in areas where we are individually responsible. Do we pray for the Eternalís forgiveness and instruction every day? Are we treating our spouse or children according to the righteous standards of scripture? Are we overcoming other sins which we know we have? Are we doing what we can to effectively help others whom we know are "about to crash"? Remember the words of our Savior:
...but unless you repent you will all likewise perish (Luke 13:5).
Norman S. Edwards
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