Sending The Wrong Message


What message should Christians be spreading during a time of pandemic, when much of the world seems to be in semi-quarantine? A couple weeks ago I addressed this issue in the article “Speak Lord, For Your Servant Is Listening.” Since then, I’ve heard a number of Christian leaders speak to the topic.

I’ve been pleased with some, disappointed in others, and surprised at those who have remained silent.

The latter shouldn’t surprise me, really. They are the preachers who push the health and wealth message. What can they say when Christians actually do come down with the virus? What can they say in response to the social distancing policies designed to limit the spread of the virus? No, we don’t have to do that because we have God’s promise of health and wealth? There are serious Biblical problems with that position, and of course we know that all of us, Christians included, will one day die. So apparently God isn’t keeping His promise, if we read into the Bible that idea. So, silence. What message can they give their friends and neighbors when Christians like everyone else can contract Covid-19 and can be carriers of the virus?

The first group of leaders who have turned to the Bible and are addressing today’s circumstances in light of what the Bible says, seem to me to be seizing the opportunity. People who are afraid or who feel like they’re losing control, who were counting on a job that disappeared over night, who no longer have the comfortable retirement package they once had, need to hear what God says about crisis and about how he works through trials and suffering, how He is sovereign and will not leave or forsake His children. That’s the message those leaders have delivered.

Another group of Christians who have a media presence have given a non-message as their response: God isn’t doing anything different today than He did in years gone by; it’s not up to us to take the events of today as particularly meaningful. Here’s one example:

No doubt the usual silly suspects will tell us why God is doing this to us. A punishment? A warning? A sign? These are knee-jerk would-be Christian reactions in a culture which, generations back, embraced rationalism: everything must have an explanation. But supposing it doesn’t? Supposing real human wisdom doesn’t mean being able to string together some dodgy speculations and say, “So that’s all right then?” What if, after all, there are moments such as T. S. Eliot recognized in the early 1940s, when the only advice is to wait without hope, because we’d be hoping for the wrong thing? (“Christianity Offers No Answers About the Coronavirus. It’s Not Supposed To”)

In response to that article, another leader offered a Biblical counterpoint:

Christian hope is radically different [from the hope the world enjoys], because Christianity is different from every other religion. Why? Because it’s eternally founded on the prophetic words of God, revealed to prophets who wrote down what God said about the future. The God of the Bible is eternal, infinitely above the unfolding of time. He is the “Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13). He wrote the complex story of human history before the world began. And he has revealed everything we need to know about the future. (“Surprised By Hopelessness”)

Still one more leader gives a message of repentance and hope. John Piper has written a book on the subject, Coronavirus And Christ (audio book available for free; also available for purchase in various platforms). He not only addresses hope for believers but also the need for repentance.

As I see it, the message of no purpose and hopelessness is the wrong message. I don’t believe God wastes any opportunity to draw people to Himself. More and more, people around the world are asking what God’s doing in and through this pandemic. As places begin to move back toward opening businesses, toward a bit of normalcy, the window is also beginning to close when Christians can spread the Biblical message of repentance and hope to people who have come face to face with their mortality. May many more leaders follow those who are doing so, and not those who are giving the wrong message.

Originally posted Monday at Spec Faith.

Published in: on April 30, 2020 at 3:55 pm  Comments (15)  
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Responding To The Supreme Court Rulings


Photo by Ben Earwicker Garrison Photography, Boise, ID www.garrisonphoto.org

Photo by Ben Earwicker
Garrison Photography, Boise, ID
http://www.garrisonphoto.org

There’s an old adage–something about closing the barn door after the horses are already gone. It’s a futile effort–the right action but done at the wrong time. In the same way, I suspect, any effort to size down Big Government, to corral the liberal bent that considers defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman to be discriminatory, is futile.

The Supreme Court rulings of last week that have opened the door more widely to “same-sex marriage” are symptoms, not causes. Scripture makes clear what the road away from God looks like, and if we’re honest, we can see a lot of America in it (warning–the following is not politically correct):

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. (Rom 1:18-27 – emphases added)

We are seeing played out in front of us these verses: rejection of God, the worship of self, and the resulting release by God, allowing people to act on all their sensual passions.

So, what is the American Christian to do?

There’s a verse in Psalm 18 that includes this line: “And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me” (v 4b). I think one response to an increase in ungodliness and a simultaneous decrease in influence that the Christian might have, is to be terrified. After all, the ungodliness is coming in torrents.

Terrified people either hide or go into fight mode. That’s why you see some Christians circling the wagons and others joining Tea Party rallies.

The Psalmist took a different tack:

In my distress I called upon the LORD,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears. (v. 6)

Clearly, when we’re confronted with ungodliness, we should be turning to God.

I think we tend to forget that ungodliness is a form of rejecting God. It’s not aimed at us, even though we may feel as if we’re getting caught in the backwash.

At the same time, I think we should continue to carry on with the assignment Jesus gave us when He returned to heaven to take His place at the Father’s right hand. He gave us a mission: to go to the world, every part of it, and make disciples.

This past Sunday my pastor, Mike Erre, preached on this very point. He highlighted the fact that we are to do as Jesus did (it’s what defines followers ;-). “[Jesus said,]’As You [God] sent Me into the world, I also have sent [my disciples] into the world’ ” (John 17:18).

So how did God send Jesus into the world? Not to coerce people to believe in Him. Not to beg them or bribe them or bully them. He invited and He served.

In essence He was obeying the two great commandments: to love God, to love our neighbors. This focus is important. Jesus didn’t invite people to follow Him because He wanted to have more disciples than the Pharisees or because He was raising an army to overthrow Rome. He invited people then to sit at His banqueting table, and He does so now, because He loves.

It’s not a big mystery: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Jesus followed that up by saying He and the Father are one:

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. (John 14:10)

In the gospels, in fact, we learn that Jesus laid down His life: no one took it from Him. God sacrificed His Son, Jesus sacrificed Himself.

All for love, that God might give the gift of grace to a people destined to die.

And that’s how we, His followers, are to love. That’s what our response to the Supreme Court rulings should be.

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