Theological Reflections on COVID-19

Suddenly we are living in a very strange world, a place that we don’t recognize.  The baseball fields are empty, malls are closed, restaurants are bringing your food to the car and we find ourselves digging in our closets for that do-it-yourself haircut product (Flowebee) we purchased back in the 90’s.  Many of the things that we took for granted just a few weeks ago are now unavailable to us, including our church pew.  My children are now homeschooled and today while my son attended via Zoom I heard his teacher tell the class, “9/11 was the most dramatic, world-changing event in my generation and this will be yours.”  Great point and likely that is true, but it leads me to ponder how the history books will view the Corona Virus pandemic.

Obviously there is immense physical suffering taking place all over the globe and the economic impact is severe, but what will be said of us after this craziness is all over? No doubt lots of “honey-do” home projects will be completed and apparently the toilet paper industry will have a banner fiscal bottom line.  When this is all finished will we love each other more deeply, maybe even coming closer than 6 feet to tell our neighbors, friends and even strangers that we care? Will we just pick up where we left off living in the fast lane, driven by our calendars, tasks and cell phones with our eyes more on the virtual world than the real world?  How will our hearts be changed while we are sitting in our homes?  I believe God never wastes a tragedy and certainly will not waste a global pandemic.  What if God has placed us in our homes and away from our churches, our work, our schools and our relationships in order to open our eyes to His love toward us?

The world is gripped in fear because for the first time in many people’s lives, they are faced with the reality of mortality.  Crisis can be a truth serum revealing the condition of our hearts and there are many, many whose heart condition is utterly spiritually dead. Real fear is not found in the Corona Virus, fear is found in a Godless eternity.  For the Christian, we serve a God who has overcome the greatest fear bully on the block, death.  Jesus stood in a cemetery beside the grave of his friend Lazarus and said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” John 11:25. For those wrapped up in fear let me give you 4 quick reminders that give theological perspective to this global pandemic.

  1. We live in a very, very broken world. There have always been global pandemics and there will likely be more in the future. The Asian Flu killed 2 million people from 1956-58, the Spanish Flu of 1918 killed between 20-50 million and the Bubonic Plague of the 1300’s killed an estimated 100-200 million people. Some say, “Why would God allow this to happen?” Yet the Bible reveals that this was never God’s plan, rather this was man’s choice. “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” Romans 5:12.  Worse than any pandemic is the sin pandemic that started in Genesis 3 and continues until today.  This pandemic is universal and billions have died as a result of Adam and Eve’s tragic decision.  At the time of this writing there is no curative treatment for the Corona Virus, but you can be sure that Jesus Christ is the cure for the sin pandemic. The Father sent His Son to the cross as a curative treatment for your lost condition.  The soul’s cure is found in the Son’s cross.  Because of the cross and the empty tomb, this very, very broken world will one day be restored by the God who “makes all things new.” Revelation 21:5.
  2. We are not home yet. When these types of events take place we are reminded that this broken world is only a stopping place for our souls, a temporary dwelling place. Be encouraged beloved, it is only temporary. “Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.  For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who His children really are.” Paul goes on to say, “For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.” Romans 8: 18-19; 22. These global pandemics are among the “pains of childbirth” and “groanings” that Paul describes. The pains of childbirth eventually succumb to the birth of new life, a glorious moment. As Christians our citizenship is found not in this broken world, but in a world to come in which every tribe, nation and tongue will be found praising the one true King. “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” Philippians 3:20. Suffering in this world is real and cathartic, but it shall pass and hopefully soon. John Newton, the writer of the most famous hymn Amazing Grace, as he was dying said joyfully, “my memory is failing but I remember two things, I am a great sinner and Christ is a great savior. I am still in the land of the dying, but I shall be in the land of the living soon.”  Hang on believer, we too shall be in the land of the living soon. You would be wise not to place your tent too far in the ground of this failing world.
  3. God has a history of using social distancing to increase spiritual intimacy. Many of the great Psalms were written by David during his days of sojourning through the Judean wilderness.  Psalm 40 finds David in “a pit”, lonely and exiled. In this pit he was surrounded by the mud and the mire, yet notice David says, “He heard my cry.” He states, “I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.  He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God.”  Psalm 40: 1-3a.  Though alone, David found solace and firm footing as he waited patiently for the Lord.  Imagine running into the wilderness from people wanting you dead only to find a new song of praise to sing as you come out of seclusion!  Elijah found deep intimacy and a still small voice in his cave of loneliness.  Paul rejoiced in the presence of God bound in the seclusion of a maritime prison and even Jesus found intimate fellowship with the Father during his 40 day wilderness fasting.  What if God is taking us away from our offices, ballparks, church pews and social functions in order to bring us to a place to hear His voice again?  The scriptures reveal that God often does His best work in people who have distanced themselves from society for a period of time.
  4. Christ is still in control. In Revelation 5 it is the Lamb of God, the Lion of Judah who was the only one worthy to open the scroll.  The scroll revealed the future of this world and by taking the scroll and breaking the seals Jesus will forever be the victorious one. In Revelation 19, Jesus is the rider on the white horse with the words “King of Kings and Lord of Lords” written on His thigh. The world began with a devastating decision which caused chaos and death to rule, it will end with the victorious Jesus sitting confidently in control having defeated every enemy and every threat. In response to COVID-19 there is Revelation 19, for every virus there is a victor and for every fear there is a Heavenly Father. The world may be in crisis, but God’s sovereign control has always been certain and the nail scarred hand on the scroll in Revelation 5 has secured our future glory.  Be responsible, be vigilant, be prayerful, but don’t be fearful. The world is heading toward a certain path, but for the redeemed that path will lead directly to the throne of God.

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