There was a brilliant scientist, who grew up in a Christian home, but never believed in God. His education in physics made him proud but later he became disillusioned in life. One day, he was depressed and decided to commit suicide. From a cliff he jumped but was too afraid to die. He called upon God to save him by suspending the gravity. God was gracious that he hit a tree broke his legs but was alive. As he recovered, he realized how foolish was his prayer. If God suspends gravity even for few seconds, what will happen to that area? Parts of earth could disintegrate including from the cliff, he was falling. People will be sky walking; cars will fly out of control. There would be complete chaos that would affect many people.
Sadly, many of us think like that scientist. Why not God intervene immediately or instantly and help us? Why God is not hearing our prayers? Why Godly people and those who serve him as missionaries or pastors, or bible teachers die in the Corona pandemic?
II What is pandemic?
The plague, pestilence and plague could be understood as a disease with deadly consequences. Cause of disease seems to be invisible, mysterious and beyond human control. In Bible, we read about ten plagues that came upon Egypt because of Pharaoh unwillingness to let the Children of Israel go. 70000 people died of pestilence, because of King David’s proud order for census of Israel. (II Samuel 24:15)
2.1 Plagues in history
There was a great 14th century plague that destroyed two-thirds of Europe’s population. That time also Christians anticipated His coming.
Daniel Defoe’s book: A Journal of the Plague Year; wrote about out break of plague in London in 1665. Like now, there was anxiety, fear, depression, rumours and conspiracy theories. The homeless and the poor were the most affected.
Martin Luther also experienced bubonic plague in 1527 but did not leave the city of Wittenberg as many did to escape, instead faced it and helped those who were dying.
Missionaries who served in South India faced cholera, many died including young missionaries and children of missionaries. Yet, they served the sick. In one church in Nazareth, Tamil Nadu the congregation made a covenant to celebrate Holy Communion every day as a gratitude for deliverance in 1902. That is followed for over a century now.
2.2 Global Pandemic
Pandemic of Covid 19 has taken many lives in almost all nations around the world. Probably, more casualties than some wars. In wars, the enemy is seen. In this, the virus is an unseen enemy. What is the best way to attack or defeat or kill or at least restrain the virus?
Perhaps, after global flood during Noah’s time, this is a global level havoc.
2.3 Global Civil Sabbath?
Almost all of us were running forgetting about Sabbath, a day ordained by God. The world was interested only in weekends, entertainment and eating. Sabbath rest of worship, reflection, prayers and fellowship disappeared from our vocabulary. Lord imposed civil sabbath, to impress on all humanity that they are not in control of their lives or their future. When normalcy returns, will the world heed to God’s call of ‘Sabbath’?
III Trouble free world for Christians?
All humans aspire for a trouble-free world, a perfect utopia, where all things are good, complete, and perfect. However, that is not the case. The Fall of the first human couple was fall of humanity, hence we inherit an imperfect or fallen world. The world is cursed because of the Original Sin and there will be various kinds of uninvited troubles or disasters. For some calamities, it is possible to know the causes, but for some it is mystery. No country or continent or country or city is exempt from this impact of Fall of humanity.
3.1 Are Christians exempt?
There are a few who believe, these troubles, trials and tribulations will not affect the believers. Sickness, poverty, and such troubles that come upon all will not affect them is their belief. Nevertheless, they experience these and are confused.
Lord Jesus Christ told his disciples: “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Prophet Jeremiah reminded the captives in Babylon that their prayers for city is important and ‘for in its welfare, you will find your welfare.’ (Jeremiah 29:7) If any country or city is affected, that would certainly affect God’s chosen people (church) also in that country or city. Lord did not promise a life without afflictions. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” (Psalms 34:19) God in His Sovereign authority and power could manifest His glory in the midst of adversity. (John 9:2-3)
Times like this makes us to consider, reflect, reform and change direction. (Ecclesiastes 7:14) It is better to go to heaven handicapped than live a sinful life in the world. (Matthew 18:8-9) Adversity is best university. Lord brings correction in our life: Go and sin no more (John 5:14)
3.2 What about Promises of God?
It is important to understand God before we understand the Promises of God. First, God is Sovereign, and he has absolute authority over all seen and unseen in the universe, space and heavens. He rules all for His glory and purpose. Second, God is Good all the time. There is no darkness or evil in Him. Hence, all he does is for good of all. Third, God has his own schedule or timetable. For him one day is like one thousand years and vice versa. (II Peter 3:8) Four, God is love and all his actions are based on His unconditional and transformational love.
Has God promised long-life? Yes. It does not mean a great number of years. Long life means adequate time on this planet earth to accomplish His plan intended for us in this world. Did Lord Jesus Christ have a long-life? Yes, adequate to fulfil his plan of redemption but not according to human standards as 33 is short. Jonathan, son of King Saul died young along with his father. His purpose of life to affirm, encourage and make way for David as next king was accomplished.
Promise of protection is always there, until the time determined by God as evident in Psalms 91. Many times, Lord Jesus was about to be stoned, but it did not happen. Paul almost died few times, because of persecution, but did not die until the time was up for him to go. God is with us even when we walk through the valley of death, just to take us to eternal home or send us back for some more time on this earth. (Psalms 23:4) Job and Joseph went through agony and pain, but Lord was with them.
Promise is always linked with the purpose of God. Without purpose of God promises are not valid or of any worth. God’s promise of healing and protection is linked with God’s purpose or calling for an individual in this world.
3.3. God is Just and Impartial
In the covenant with Noah Lord said: While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:22) Most common provision in the world is for all irrespective of their faith or religious convictions. Lord Jesus Christ taught that Father in Heaven treats all equally. “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45) Hence when a pandemic comes, there is no exemption for Christians and believers.
IV Is it warning or judgement or punishment?
All disasters or curse are indirect consequences of Original Sin. Pandemics, earthquakes, cancer, birth defects, may not be attributable to individual sin, but it all traces back to the original sin. Sickness and calamity were never a part of God’s original plan for this world. People who go through the suffering need not bear it as consequence of their personal sin. Job experienced intense suffering both materially, physically and mentally, and it was not his personal sin.
Sovereign God has moral, spiritual, absolute authority over humanity. Sometimes, he allows diseases as warning to people, communities and nations. God also disciplines his children. (Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:4-13) God punishes his people, the nation of Israel when they disobeyed his commandments. In the Mosaic Law, God had warned his people that plagues is consequence of his punishment. (Leviticus 26: 21,25) 14700 and 24000 people died because of disobedience. (Numbers 16:49; 25:9) Ultimately, God will judge all nations, the whole world. Earlier he had judged the whole world by destroying the world by global flood during the time of Noah. God’s punishment is also an example for others. They are expected to learn from others’ experiences. (I Corinthians 10:11)
In the future, Lord would send diseases as global judgement. (Revelation 6:8)
4.1 Sufferers are not great sinners
Some asked if those who suffer are more evil doers or sinners. Pilate massacred Galileans and mixed their blood with sacrifices. Some were killed when the Tower of Siloam collapsed. Lord Jesus made it clear, the victims were not great sinners. Such incidents were warning to the living to repent. (Luke 13:1-15)
4.2 Purpose of life
Yes, all love to live longer, there are no exceptions. However, what is the purpose of life? What is the purpose for which we wish to live? Like Paul do we have only purpose of glorifying God. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
4.3 Pastoral responsibility
The people of the world are given different kinds of advice by the government, health experts and social activists. That may not be adequate for the people especially the people of God. The Christians are called to be ‘Shepherd’ of the community. Pastors, priests, bible teachers, counsellors and others are expected to comfort, care, strengthen people of God.
4.4 Civic sense
God has given us common sense. As Christians we have to take precautions and protective measures as advised by the government and World Health Organization. Also, eating healthy food that is affordable is essential. Self-discipline is better than imposed discipline. All these are for our own safety and long life.
Christians face a great apocalypse challenge of coronavirus pandemic as do all others. It is important to remember that Social distancing is not relational distancing from God or Church or neighbours. It is indeed spiritual challenge that draws us closer to the Lord, love one another and demonstrate love to the world. This is also time to serve others sacrificially. Let us explore creative ways to give hope, share essentials and shine bright in the times of darkness and death.