Minister’s Letter Harvest Thanksgiving
Is Coronavirus God’s Judgement?
This is a question which someone asked me the other day.
It is possible of course that the virus is a judgement from the Lord (and He would be entitled to do it) but since the impact of the virus is global, and it is hard to point to any specific sin that may have prompted God to act in this way I think it unlikely.
It is much more plausible I think, to see the coronavirus as a manifestation of the curse of God’s good world as a result of sin. Disease and death is a fact of life in a fallen world that has been subjected to frustration and decay whilst it awaits redemption and the revelation of the children of God (Romans 8).
Every affliction of this kind is anticipating and a warning of the final eschatological judgement to come: (Matthew 24). What we do need to consider seriously is
Hebrews assures us that the hardships we experience right now are part of God’s plan to train us. His discipline is for our good to enable us to grow in holiness. It may feel painful and unwelcome but “It produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:10-11).
What then is God Teaching Us?
Rather than asking what sin has caused God to treat us in this way, a much better question John Stevens suggests, is to ask what God might be teaching us through this crisis. This is a general principle for the Christian life but it may be especially helpful during this particular time of hardship and affliction.
Although we may not appreciate fully what God is seeking to teach his people during this time for years to come, it is already possible to suggest some lessons we are learning:
- Perhaps God is training us to appreciate the vital importance of the church community and making meeting together a priority;
- As we feel our individual weakness and vulnerability, God is perhaps training us to repent of our self-dependence and to learn to live by faith and prayer;
- As the vulnerable are in self-isolation for a long period, God is perhaps training us to care for others and put their needs ahead of our own;
- As we find ourselves restricted in our homes and communities, God is perhaps training us to gain a renewed evangelistic heart for our neighbours;
- As we find ourselves confined at home with spouses and children, parents, or other relatives, God is perhaps training us to deepen our relationships and put right any unresolved tensions or distance that may have damaged them;
- As we find ourselves unable to do many of the things we have taken for granted, God is perhaps training us to value what really matters in life and forcing us to give up our consumerism and idolatry;
- As we find ourselves threatened by something that is affecting the whole of society, God is perhaps training us to value the government he has placed over us to ensure order and protect us;
- As we find ourselves with time on our hands, God is perhaps training us to regain a habit of daily prayer and Bible reading;
- As we find ourselves in awe of the dedication and sacrifice of healthcare workers and those who are performing essential jobs that sustain life, God is perhaps training us to re-evaluate who we regard as heroic and freeing us from our adulation of over-paid celebrities and sports stars;
- As we feel the fear of death and frailty of life, God is perhaps training us to appreciate the assurance of the gospel hope of resurrection and liberating us from the unconscious fear that prevents us from living life for him to the full with joyful confidence in the future that awaits us;
- As we sense that this virus is going to be around longer than we first imagined, God is perhaps training us in the virtues of patience and long-suffering;
- As we begin to understand the devastating impact that Covid 19 will have in less developed countries of the world, God is perhaps training us to regain our passion for world mission and to care for our poorer brothers and sisters around the world.
No doubt there are many other things that God is teaching us and our congregation. Please feel free to share them, but we need to have faith that God is acting for our good, and that he is confirming his love to us through these affiliations.
If we understand this it will change the way that we respond to this crisis.
We will surely want to pray, not just that God would be merciful and restrain this virus and its impact, but also that it might produce a harvest of righteousness amongst us.
Yours most Sincerely, Frank