Updated: Apr 17, 2020
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Yesterday I had a conversation with one of my closest friends who is a major Christian leader in his Latin American country. His country has been already experiencing profound economic and political challenges resulting in the lack of basic items such as fuel, soap, and food to name a few, even before the outbreak of this current pandemic. Conditions have only gotten worse with severely reduced economic activity, a repressive government and the fear of getting sick or dying.
As we talked, I was amazed by the unprecedented opportunities to be able to minister to those in need and the openness of so many desiring to draw near to God. For months, people are coming forward to ask Jesus to forgive them and to save their souls. It is so encouraging to see the way God was ministering to so many even as some were overcome with great fear. The situation is causing questions such as, “Is this the end of the world?” He responds to people that it is not the end of the world but “It is the judgment of God”.
In reality, I wasn’t surprised to hear him say that since it’s a very common statement amongst many Christians in times like these. Whenever anything happens that is beyond human control such as hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, forest fires, pandemics or whatever major tragedy is currently in the world’s focus, well-meaning Christians try to explain why the human suffering has some sort of purpose. I even remember some saying the terrorist attacks on 9/11 were the judgment of God against someone.
Everything unpleasant and destructive caused by nature has become widely accepted in today’s society as an “Act of God”. We even see it when someone suffers and dies from a horrible, painful disease with some saying it was God’s will; maybe that person’s sin brought it on them; God took them away… etc. Thinking this way presents God as a harsh, hardhearted, vengeful, dictator lacking any semblance of compassion. Another very controversial discussion about whether everything that happens on earth is God’s will or not arises in times like these. We can make things much more complicated than they need to be by putting anything that is difficult to understand in the “It’s God’s will” category as a catch all.
Much of the way we perceive God is based on a misunderstanding of God’s historic dealings with mankind. In the Old Testament, we see God dealing with humans in a manner that could be considered harsh without understanding the context in which God did what He did. In countless places; however, even in the Old Testament, we see God having deep compassion and mercy on a “stiff necked” and rebellious people. Many descriptive verses speaking of God’s character show God’s true heart as in Psalms 145:8, “The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in lovingkindness. The Lord is good to all, and His mercies are over all His works.”
God’s relationship with mankind changed forever through the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, sealing a new and better covenant with His precious blood. Jesus Himself, being God, pronounced forgiveness on those who were crucifying Him, saying “Forgive them for they know not what they are doing”. The only judgment Jesus demonstrated in his earthly life was against the self-righteous people and systems He encountered. He was and is always merciful towards the lost, dysfunctional, and openly sinful ones. God doesn’t deal with mankind anymore like He did before the New Covenant.
A tendency to quickly attribute God’s judgment to every tragedy also reveals an unhealthy self-righteousness. James 2 encourages us not to differentiate and show favoritism towards those who seem to have it all together while looking down on those who live in struggles and dysfunction. In James 2:4 it says, “Have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?” It is summarized in James 2:13 when it says, “For Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” Let’s be very careful not to create a God in our own image. He definitely does not wink at sin, but He also is not a God who is so willing to bring judgment on others as we naturally would.
There are many things that happen on the earth every day that are not God’s will. It’s never God’s will for murders, rapes, terrorism, child abuse, extreme poverty, starvation, or sickness to take place. If everything that happens on the earth was God’s will, He would be the worst Father that has ever existed. He should be arrested and imprisoned for child abuse if He were to bring these things upon the people He calls His children. We must understand God hates everything that does harm to any human beings, especially anything that separates humans from knowing and receiving His love.
No, COVID 19 is not the judgment of God against mankind. He actually wants to and is healing many stricken with this disease. Jesus constantly went about in His earthly life “healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people.” Matt 4:23. If it were God’s judgment to make people sick with COVID 19 out of judgment, then He would not want to undo His will by healing anyone sick with it. Turn to Jesus in every time of need and He will be waiting for you to come into your life and meet your needs, whatever they may be.