Dwight A Moody
An influential preacher in Texas announced his Sunday sermon title: “Is the Coronavirus a Judgment from God?” His 45-minute sermon included four assertions about plagues, one of which was this: “We dare not speak what God has not spoken.” He therefore concluded that God has not spoken concerning this current pandemic, which I was relieved to hear.
I was also glad to hear my own pastor take up the subject in his sermon this past Sunday. His text from the Gospel of Luke (chapter 13) has Jesus thinking about the pilgrims who were murdered while they were presenting their sacrifices in the temple in Jerusalem.
“Do you think,” Jesus asked, “that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the others because they died this way?”
That is the assumption of many people when bad things happen. “If only they had done this or that …. or had not done this or that, these things would not have happened.” We heard it often when the AIDS virus sickened so many people. And occasionally, a preacher will declare thus when a hurricane hits a city or a tornado flattens a town.
There is actually some biblical grounds for this way of thinking. A good bit of the history of the Hebrew people recorded in the Bible was written by those who thought this way. “You are suffering (in defeat, in famine, in exile, in whatever) because you have sinned against God (generally, by ignoring the covenant with God or the law of God).” This actually is the framework in which we read that famous, frequently-quoted text from 2 Chronicles: “If my people, who are called by my name … will turn from their wicked ways, then I will heard from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
But a good bit of the Bible is a protest against this easy equation of sin and suffering. The entire book of Job and many of the Psalms are searching for a way around this interpretation of life.
Then there is Jesus. The whole premise of our Good News is that a righteous person died a god-forsaken death, executed by religious and civil authorities for disturbing the status quo. His crucifixion was a scandal to the suffering-equals-sin crowd even while evangelists proclaimed his heavenly mission. His resurrection, they asserted, vindicated his words and works. He was not a sinner, as his death might signal to some, but a saint, as his resurrection demonstrated to all.
Along the same line, I am confident in declaring about this pandemic: one thing it ain’t is a judgment from God. That is bad theology as well as bad grammar.
And there is another thing it ain’t—a conspiracy!
Some people think so, fewer now than just a week or so ago. But yes, they did—announcing to all the wondering world how this global pandemic was nothing more than a despicable plot to “overthrow the election” of our sitting President.
It was quite a stretch even then—that somehow, in secret, political operatives (whatever they are) hatched a plan to fool the world and trick us into believing the sick are not sick, the dead are not dead, and the news is not news. The pandemic was all a fabrication, so they fervently declared, designed to detract us from the stellar job performance of said President. And it “succeeded” in convincing prime ministers to close boarders, executives to shut factories, general managers to suspend competitions, and ministers to send people home to watch the worship on Facebook.
That anybody ever believed this—or announced it—is now incredible. Now, even those pandemic deniers are joining with the rest of us in saying one thing it ain’t—a plot against the President.
Then there is this, and I quote: “When I was expressing concern over COVID-19 to my saintly elderly mother, she declared, ‘I’m not worried … the Lord is coming soon!’”
Some go further and say the pandemic and the parusia (that’s Greek for the appearing of Jesus) are not just coincidental—that is, occurring near the same time—but the former is actually a divine sign of the latter: the pandemic, they say, is a sign from God that the End is near.
The only thing near its end is this essay. The pandemic is far from over, and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, is a long. long way off. In the meantime, we need to tend to the sick, feed the poor, visit the jailed, and find a cure for this vicious virus, all in the name of Jesus and only after washing our hands.