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god’s wrath & our world

vintage television test pattern with emergency message

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you a message from the emergency blogcast system. This is not a test. (I promise to get back to the series I had on the go at some point soon. But for now, this topic seemed timely and urgent.)

 


I’ve heard from too many people over the past few weeks to keep ignoring it: there is a wave of Christians, really more of a small ripple, like in butterscotch ripple ice cream, who seem to delight in promoting this hard season as an example of God’s wrath via a new plague. Except, this is more like stupid-unhelpful-biblically-confused-clichés-religious-people-say ripple ice cream, and it makes me yearn for plain vanilla.

So, I thought I’d jump on here and type out a quick Top Ten List of thoughts that come to my mind when I hear Christians point back to the plagues of Moses or some other biblical story or forward to the plagues of Revelation  as evidence that COVID-19 was sent by God to punish sinners.  (In keeping with what we talked about in our “Speaking of Jesus” series, I’m going to try to word most of these points in the form of a question.)  God of course can do whatever God wants to do, but we misrepresent God when we don’t allow Jesus to help us discern what God wants to do.

Here we go…

#10. For those who point backwards to the Old Testament… Do you think what God did in that instance (i.e., using the ten plagues to deliver Israel out of Egypt) is how God always works? Can we make that conclusion? How often did God use marching in circles to tear down the walls of an enemy city? Or a bronze serpent to heal his people from snake bite? Just because God has done something one way in the past, do you think we can assume he will work the same way in the future? (And for those whose minds go to Malachi 3:6 and Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” – does this not refer to God’s character of mercy ultimately revealed in Jesus never changing, rather than the mechanisms God uses to express that character? It seems this same God has changed methods many times, from flood, to fire, to famine, to turning water into blood, to turning water into wine, and wooing us through the life and death and life again of Jesus.) 

#9. On that note, what was God’s reaction to people who tried to idolize the way God worked in the past (e.g., the story of Nehushtan, the bronze serpent, in 2 Kings 18:4)? What is the lesson in this for us?

#8. What about the indiscriminate nature of COVID-19, especially killing the poor (who are in areas where they cannot get proper medical treatment, such as ventilators) and the elderly and infirm and the most vulnerable around the world far more than it kills the young, and rich, and strong, and privileged? Is that how God works? Is that what Jesus shows us about God? Since Jesus teaches that to see him is to see the one who sent him (John 12:45), shouldn’t the ministry of Jesus decisively influence our idea of how God works in this world?

#7. The Big Question: How does Jesus inform your opinion about this topic, and every topic? Jesus – the one who said he came, not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom (Mark 10:45). Jesus – who shows us that God is more willing to die for sinners than make sinners die (Luke 23:34). What about Jesus’ teaching that his Father’s desire is to universally bless all people, and to love everyone, including his enemies, even through the natural order of things (Matthew 5:43-48)? Bottom line: Do you keep Jesus in the centre of your interpretations of how God works in this world, remembering that no one has really seen God until Jesus (John 1:18)? 

#6. What about Matthew 13:24-30 where Jesus points out that some things come from God but some things come from the Devil. (Who planted weeds among the wheat? “An enemy did this,” says Jesus.) Why are you not factoring in Jesus’ teaching in your discussion about the possibility of some things coming from God’s “enemy” and not just from God?

#5. What about the Bible’s overall teaching that WE were given responsibility to take care of the planet and we have blown it (Genesis 1-4). And now “all creation groans” (Rom 8). How does this factor into your thinking? 

#4. Do you think we need to call these events God’s judgement in order to motivate our repentance? What if these events are simply the natural disasters that our lack of repentance manifests? Does God need to use COVID-19 – primarily killing poor, sick, and aged people – to conjure human repentance? Doesn’t the apostle Peter say God is “patient, not wanting anyone to perish” (2 Peter 3:9) and the apostle Paul say that it is “God’s kindness that leads you to repentance” (Romans 2:4) and the apostle James say that God is the source of “every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17) and was this not the emphasis in early gospel preaching (Acts 14:17)? Does God not draw us through God’s care and creativity revealed through his CREATION (Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1:20; Matthew 5:43-48; Acts 14:17), human CONSCIENCE, the law of God written upon every human heart (Romans 2:14-15), the Holy Spirit who softens hard hearts and provides CONVICTION to the world about sin (John 16:8), the teaching and example of CHRIST, in his life and his death, that draws all people to himself (John 12:32)? Is this not enough? 

#3. What are the potential dangers of blaming God for things that we and/or Satan should take responsibility for? Let’s talk about the damage to truth and spiritual health that this kind of thinking can do. 

#2. And for those who point forward and suggest this is the fulfillment of prophecy from Revelation about the four horsemen of the apocalypse (Revelation 6), I wonder why you think THIS generation is experiencing the unfolding of prophecy in a way that previous generations did not, when previous generations have suffered through more severe outbreaks (e.g., the Bubonic plagues of the Justinian pandemic of the 6th century, killing half of Europe’s population, and the Black Death of the 14th century killing over 100 million, or the Spanish flu from a century ago, killing over 50 million). Is it possible that we sometimes suffer from chronocentrism when reading Bible prophecy? That is, a kind of egocentricy that focuses on our time, our generation, our contemporary experience as THE time, THE generation that the the book of Revelation was really written for. Is some of our obsession with Bible prophecy and contemporary events just the Evangelical version of religious narcissism? 

#1. I would like to leave #1 for you, the reader. How would you respond to some of the silly and damaging things Christians say during times of crisis? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Thank you for helping combat the spread of stupid cliché Christianity! 

Peace,

Bruxy

PS: When Jesus and his disciples came across a blind man in John 9, the disciples responded with the worst of religious impulses: they turned it into a discussion about the origin of evil, rather than opening their eyes to this opportunity to help. Jesus didn’t play their game, and we don’t need to play that game today. Let’s keep our eyes open to the ways Jesus is at work in this world, and join in every chance we get.

Tags : CoronavirusCOVID-19Jesusjudgementwrath

63 Comments

  1. This is just the consequence of nature and urbanization. To blame it on a deity is to deny our responsibility for conditions on the earth and a demonstration of our lack of understanding of our natural systems. We live with disease everyday. We insist on changing the natural environment to accommodate our own needs. There are consequences to every action. God told us despite everything to love one another. God also told us that things are far to complicated for us to act as judge and jury on others. Most of the population of this planet live in precarious circumstances and very few have health care or clean water. The question we will be asked by God is how did we act like Jesus would in this time of uncertainty. We, in the developed world are inconvenienced. Most are facing war, starvation, homelessness or hunger. We need perspective, we need to mediate on Jesus and then love like he did … we need to stop creating a “hunger games” world.

  2. Thanks Bruxy! I get weary of these questions as really they are a distraction that cloud our actions and reactions. I’d rather listen and instead respond in grace, patience, perseverance and empathy. I too choose plain vanilla; keep it simple , Love as the common denominator, mourn with others, rejoice and restore in the simple things, like loving the sight of a Robin or enjoying a 6ft chat with a neighbour! Keep feeding the flock, we need regular weeding!

  3. Thank you Bruxy. Your perspective is a refreshing one and reminds us of what truly is the compassionate and character of God. Perhaps it will give judgemental mindsets a pause if they are honest with themselves and open to the Holy Spirit’s voice.

  4. Awesome Bruxy and THANK YOU! I appreciate the questions – makes me think – and the scriptures which make me reflect on God’s true nature. I appreciate the fresh, Jesus-centred approach rather than the “hell-fire-and-damnation” approach which reflects my refusal to believe in Jesus in order to be “saved” from hell. As you said, Jesus wooed me with His love in baby steps through my life and He reassures me daily, sometimes minute by minute, that He is with me, not judging me but loving me to become the person He intended for me to be.
    Jesus will help us get ourselves through this pandemic, hopefully bring unity in the process and ultimately learn from it. Some people probably will experience revival and we believers will work alongside Jesus to help them see Him more clearly and love Him.
    Lots of hugs and kudos. I thank the Lord for you and the gifts He has given you to help the rest of us!

  5. I always feel bad for OT Christians who spend time looking backwards. We’re NT Christians who should look forward.

    I feel bad for all Christians who carry such a burden of guilt that when something bad happens, they link it to their wrongness-guilt.

    I feel bad for those Christians who see God as the God of Jonathan Edwards, eagerly awaiting a wrong move so He can condemn then to hell, rather than the Actual God who will do everything possible to bring people back to the heart of Being.

  6. I couldn’t have thought or said it bedtter myself Bruxy – thank-you. And thepeace of Christ to you.

  7. Dear Bruxy

    I’m sorry Bruxy, although I agree to most of your comments, I’m afraid, with your last viewpoint, I have to say, “safe as it goes”
    Yes, we all agree that this could be like all the other great plaques of the earths history, however with that said, let us not in our worldly scientific arrogance say, “God sleeps most of the time”
    In other words, usually too tired to shake thing up when it’s gone over the edge.

    No need to be angry at God, as true believers in their invincible faith trust him in all ways.
    Nature, sure, sometimes, but not always.
    Sometimes he shakes us up to get our attention. Perhaps again giving us another try before our lord Jesus returns.
    Swaying even the unbelievers to wonder what is really going on.

    Many may now be rethinking their secular ways, and with a healthy fear of God, repent and be saved.

    Amen

    1. Thanks for these thoughts Gary. No doubt God is always working through everything for our good and his glory (Romans 8:28), but we don’t have to claim that God is the direct cause of any one catastrophe to see God at work through every catastrophe. Bless you.

  8. Hey Bruxy – thanks for your top 10! My number 1 is inspired by James 1:17:

    Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle.

    So I ask these two questions – is this virus desirable? Ahhh nope, as it cuts down the immunocompromised and the weakest among us. Is it beneficial? Ahh not really, as our local and global economies are experiencing meltdown, and many of us are losing our jobs and facing extreme levels of anxiety and stress.

    So with this litmus test, I agree with you that the origins of this super-bad-transmissible awful Covid-virus are from the dark side, and bear no hallmarks whatsoever of the Father of Light.

    Having said that, I’m encouraged that what the enemy intends and sends to do evil, God can turn and use to bring good. Like the bloody cross led to an empty tomb and the glorious resurrection of Jesus.

    I’m enjoying the song See a Victory by Elevation Worship that says: You take what the enemy meant for evil and you turn it for good. Come on and give a shout out of the truth. Lift your voice.

    Thanks Bruxy for shouting out truth, and lifting your voice!

  9. Bruxy I pray you will learn something through all this covid19 mess and sorry…you are wrong…this is the beginning of the end…read your bible…dont be a false minister…fear of yhe Lord is tbe beginning of wisdom and respect…no its not a erath from God…but he will use it to bring people on their knees and you know it….bible prophecy??…you bet it is!!…and you know it…end of story…start interpreting Gods word properly or he will shut you out..I dont want that for you…and the Almighty doesnt wanna lose you too…but he will say…I never knew you…so seek him and serve him..and look for the signs…..dont make it out to be so lovey dovey…cuz it aint..when God has had enough he has had enough…read it…its alk in there…regards Mr.Russo…

    1. His Son the Morning Star radiates Light and we are to reflect His Light on all darkness, may the scales be removed from my eyes and remove the fear the darkness instills. Please help me let go of the fear, for it is only the beginning in building a relationship with my Lord the Creator of all, the Great I Am, the One who Loves me, the One who is Love.

      Always in Christ,
      the Church Prays.

      We all say
      AMEN.

  10. That’s so helpful – and the Rabbinical approach of going deeper by asking each other challenging questions is, as you have reminded us the Jesus Way of teaching/drawing out (education) the Truth. I agree wholeheartedly that Jesus is the full expression of who God is. He is and has always been the perfect expression of God who is agape Love (e.g. 1Cor 13, Fruit of the Spirit Gal 6) and grace – the new covenant making the old one obsolete.
    I loved the ‘chairs’ illustration you used to show how God who is Love has and continues to pursue us in spite of our repeated perverseness – all so that He can embrace us as family to be channels of that same love to our neighbours – the ‘others’ – something that involves scrapping tribalism.
    My question is: if God is agape Love (= Jesus), how can He ever have been encouraging or even associated with a way of life or social organisation that is the antithesis of the Word = Jesus or the messages of the Prophets, that is: tribalism? Much of the Old Testament history features disfunctional tribal families and waring tribes and empires! The Way of Jesus surely is the New Covenant way and not that old religion – tribalism recreated by princes and emperors since Emperor Constantine’s day?

  11. Well said Brother! Many are like the trigger-happy disciples who asked Jesus to reign fire (press the nuclear red button) on those who rejected Him. Who did Jesus rebuked at the end? Not the city/town who rejected Him but his disciples who rejected His grace to extend to those who are proned to reject God. Jesus invited their patience like His Father had with them.

    God is patient. He’s not itching to pull the trigger and press the nuclear red button to wipe out civilization with contagions. We see Jesus demonstrating the heart of the Father by healing sinners who suffered with diseases. And we as Jesus Followers should too!

    Peace!

  12. What about Jesus judging in the temple, why can Jesus judge when He was on earth but God not judge now? His righteous judgement could be pushing the church toward Him.

    What about 2 Chronicles 7:13-14? Why couldn’t God be doing that sort of thing now?

    “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
    ‭‭2 Chronicles‬ ‭7:13-14 ESV

  13. Hi Tim, Thanks for sharing your thoughts and questions. It’s a terrific question, and here’s a terrific answer. 🙂

    The example you’re referring to is about God’s targeted judgement against Israel during the Old Covenant, which was a specific covenant with a specific race of people during a specific era in a specific place on a specific land. God did judge Israel, an earthly kingdom, in various earthly ways. I don’t think COVID-19 targets judgement on God’s people in that same way – neither Israel specifically nor Christians specifically nor sinners instead of saints specifically. If this virus was God’s judgement, we would have to conclude that God has bad aim, and we wouldn’t even know who he was judging or why. That is nothing like the judgement of 2 Chronicles 7.

    We also need to account for the New Covenant that Jesus brought. God will one day judge the world, but now is not that time, for God “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). The early church did not see the hardships they experienced as God’s judgement, but waited for God’s judgement to come in the future. Their primary question when suffering came was not “is God judging now” but “why is God delaying his judgement”, to which the answer was, because God is patient and wants to give everyone a chance to repent.

    As for Jesus judging the temple, Jesus definitely did and always does judge religious hypocrisy and the institutionalization of what should be a relational faith. But Jesus didn’t judge the religious system then, nor does he judge religious hypocrisy today, by killing tens of thousands of unsuspecting people willy-nilly. God’s judgement always hits his target. What we are experiencing today is not that.

    I hope these thoughts are helpful. Peace.

    1. Thank you for your reply, I very much appreciate your opinion, however still can’t come around to agreeing with it. I also found the earthquake that happened this month in Salt Lake God’s way of trying to get the Mormon church’s attention (link below). I know God is a good God, I know He is love, I know His ways are higher than mine and to me it’s okay if He judges now even if I don’t understand and it doesn’t seem fair. He is a righteous judge. I know it’s not my job to judge. I also am confident that whatever reason these things are happening that He will make them to the good of those who love Him. May God give all of us healthy discernment of His word. Peace and God’s blessings to you Bruxy.

      https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/18/us/earthquake-salt-lake-temple-moroni/index.html

  14. God is my Father. What kind of father is he that puts sickness on his children to punish them for his sin? Oh yes, he already judged us by punishing his own Son for us 2000 years ago – now is the time of Grace in the new covenant. To say God is doing this virus to shake things up a bit is perverse. EVERYTHING changed at the cross. He forgave EVERY sin on the cross and redeemed ALL creation – and Jesus is NOT coming back to die again on a cross for sins that He has “forgotten!!!!!! Unmerited favour has been provided for everyone and we just need to come to repentance once to come into relationship with Him.

    Thank you Bruxy for vanilla icecream – a quiet reasoned voice among the religious loud sounding “hell and damnation” preaching that seem to be gaining traction. Looking forward to seeing and sharing with you again at Refuel, Love in our Lord, Carol M-C

  15. This is once more and opportunity that is presented to us, to show who God really is, and to obey Him by loving our community, and serving them in whatever way we can. There’s no going wrong with that. Thank you for your words. God bless you

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