God and the Pandemic

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, November 16, 2020 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

If you’ve been a regular reader of the Worldview Warriors blog for some time, you’ve probably noticed that my blog posts are pretty Biblically-based, and I only speak to cultural events in the context of whatever Bible passage I’m writing on that week. But, now that we’re 8+ months into the Covid-19 pandemic and show no signs of getting out of it anytime soon, I’ll be addressing it in this post - but from a Biblical point of view, of course.

The most frustrating aspect of the pandemic for me is the lack of consistent truth. As a person who greatly appreciates the consistency of God and the absolute truth of His Word, not knowing who to believe or what I can believe is difficult for me. It seems like every week there is something new that the media is telling us, and opinions of health officials keep changing. I realize that scientists are constantly learning new things about this relatively new virus, but the lack of truth in the world is frustrating.

But from a theological point of view, one of the biggest issues that plagues many people is why did this pandemic happen in the first place? We live in a sinful, fallen world, so it’s a guarantee that bad things will happen in this world. We will have diseases and death as long as we are living in this imperfect world. Some will attribute this pandemic to the great sinfulness of the world, perhaps as a judgment from God.

That’s what the people thought back in Jesus’ time when we look at the narrative of the man who was born blind in John 9 (it’s a long story, but I encourage you to take a few moments and read the whole thing). We see this right at the beginning of the narrative: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him’” (John 9:1-3). A bad thing happened to this man in that he had no eyesight from birth; in that culture, that meant he had no way to support himself except through begging. But did it happen because he or his parents sinned? No; it happened so “the works of God might be displayed in him.”

In the story of the man born blind, Jesus doesn’t look for the cause of why this happened to that man. Instead, He directs the attention to what He (God) is going to do about it. Healing the man’s blindness was needed in that present moment, not determining the cause of that ailment.

If we are looking forward rather than backward toward the cause of the pandemic, what should our response be to it? One key answer can be found in the Lord’s prayer: “Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation” (Luke 11:2-4). God is holy, always and forever. We pray that His Kingdom will come on earth; it is already here, but we often need a bit of help to recognize it. We pray that God would provide for us. We pray for forgiveness of our sins (whether they lead to a pandemic or not), and we pray that we would forgive others as well. No matter what’s going on in the world, we are called to follow Jesus Christ and be His disciples. Yes, cases of the virus have been growing significantly (at least where I live in Ohio) recently, but God is still in control and still fully worthy of our worship!

We as humans are always looking for signs in what’s happening to give us an indication of what is to come. But we already have that sign - Jesus! When Jesus died and was raised again, it was a turning point in history. Everything prior to Jesus’ life pointed forward to Him, and everything after it points back to Him. We know that someday this world as we know it will end, and many people are saying this pandemic and other events surrounding it are indicators of ushering in the end times. But when Jesus was resurrected, that ushered in a new era and explained what God is doing in this world. Everything is all about the gospel story of Jesus!

N.T. Wright in his book God and the Pandemic writes, “Trying to jump from an earthquake, a tsunami, a pandemic, or anything else to a conclusion about ‘what God is saying here’ without going through the Gospel story is to make the basic theological mistake of trying to deduce something about God while going behind Jesus’ back.” Jesus gave us all the information we need about what God is doing in this world. He is the only messenger we need; there is no need for other warning signs of when the world will end, as we should always be ready.

Jesus has all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18). Jesus has all the power through His resurrection (Romans 1:1-4). Jesus is already reigning over this earth and will continue to reign until He subdues the last enemy, which is death (1 Corinthians 15:20-26). As N.T. Wright goes on to say, “If you want to know what it means to talk about God being ‘in charge of’ the world, or being ‘in control,’ or being ‘sovereign,’ then Jesus himself instructs you to rethink the notion of ‘kingdom,’ ‘control’ and ‘sovereignty’ themselves, around his death on the cross.” It really is all about Jesus.

What does that mean for our daily lives during this pandemic? We need to continue to give God the glory in all things. Interpret everything through the lens of Jesus and His death and resurrection. We need to actively proclaim Jesus as Lord in all things. We need to continue to pray for our leaders (all of them!) and to put our hope, faith, and trust not in them but in Jesus Christ.

I’ll leave you with one final thought from Psalm 43:3-5: “Send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

I encourage you to read God and the Pandemic by N.T. Wright for more on a Biblical response to the pandemic; what I have written here only scratches the surface of this topic.

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