Recently one of my favorite scholars and Christian thinkers, N.T. Wright, wrote an article in Time about the Christian response to the Coronavirus. His title said it all: Christianity offers no Answers about the Coronavirus; it’s not supposed to. I love the title and I want to go along with it. I appreciate some of what the author is getting at; there does not have to be a specific thing God is addressing, or we do not know why everything happens when it does. Yet, to say Christians have nothing to say is too much.
People actually do not know why bad things happen, let alone this pandemic. The history of cultures is populated with religions and practices formed to deal with why bad things happen and what to do about it! Reading tea leaves, guessing at star alignments, sacrificing babies to appease drunken gods, with all our technology people resort to the same clouded guesswork of tribes in the middle of the Amazon.
Certainly, it is essential to teach how God can actually do whatever He wants and there is absolutely nothing we can say about it (Job). He does not have to give a reason ever and our disapproval of it does not matter in the least bit as to whether He exists or is even ‘good’ as we would define Him. Still, God does say some clear words about why bad things happen that apply to today! In fact, His preachers must speak for the benefit of the world!
First, the pandemic is the result of a world broken due to mankind’s sin. The world literally does not work right. If it works at all it is by God’s grace. Death came not just to Adam, Eve and their children, but to the earth. This pandemic is just the manifestation of the larger pandemic that has not slowed down or quieted down since the fall; death.
Secondly, this pandemic is not a surprise to God, His reign, etc. He not only knew about it, but either uses it for good or directly caused it! Choose whatever language you want to make you feel better about Him. Jesus reigns… period. We praise Him when times are good and when they are bad.
Thirdly, while we might not be given specific reasons for natural disasters, that does not mean we have nothing to say about their general meaning or God’s use of them in our lives! Jesus makes very clear in the beginning of Luke, chapter 13, that our reaction to such atrocities is to repent and believe! Jesus’ answer to His disciples surprises us because instead of saying, “No, of course that didn’t happen because they are sinners,” He says, “Sure, and you’re next!” Bad Jesus! But that makes our response easy. We do not need to figure every disaster out. Instead, we review, reflect, lament, repent and look to Jesus our sufficient Savior! His promises of forgiveness and eternal life lift us above the follies of this temporary world! We will be ok! God uses disasters to remove our clasp to temporary gods and place our hands solely upon His Word, His Son, His Promises! If it was not for tough times in our lives, we would surely fall for the illusion that this world is everything and forever.
These times help us absorb the secret Paul learned about being content in good and bad times! This current pandemic will be an extraordinary blessing to many! Many will come to faith in Christ for the first time. Many will find their faith strengthened as their gods are cleared away from Jesus. Many will find opportunity to serve and love others.
Ultimately, Christians have something to say to a world that does not understand why bad things happen! It is why we exist, not to keep our mouths closed but to speak about Jesus. We may not know the details of why this or that happens. We may be frustrated with God’s will from time to time. But all our questions are answered very specifically and clearly in God’s Son on the cross! Does God love you? Obviously, yes. Is His will for your good? Obviously, yes! Will you endure? Absolutely, just as His Son rose from the dead after declaring, “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will never die!” Speak Church! The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Good News!