Pastor J.D. talks about how times of suffering, like the current coronavirus pandemic, should be viewed in connection to God’s judgment.
A glimpse inside this episode:
We’ve been asking some questions that are pretty specific to our current situation with the coronavirus. Is it ever right to see coronavirus as evidence of specific judgment from God on a person or a people?
In one sense, all misery and devastation can be. You have to be very careful with this one, not all suffering, or even most suffering, is connected to a specific sin. But Scripture clearly says that sometimes God uses disease or death as a specific punishment for sin–whether of individuals or societies as a whole. Here are three quick examples:
- In Acts 12, the Jewish King Herod allows himself to be called “God.” “And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:23) The autopsy revealed he had a parasite problem. Luke says it was a direct judgment by God for a specific sin. As in, “it was because he did this.”
- In John 5, Jesus warned the invalid he’d healed: “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). Meaning it’s possible to commit acts of rebellion that God responds to with physical suffering.
- Paul warns believers in Corinth to take their walk with God seriously because certain kinds of spiritual neglect have caused sickness: “That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.” (1 Corinthians 11:30)
- Paul even identifies homosexual desires as a tangible, physical punishment for sin. He may not do it by individual, but he definitely says it was a tangible judgment for exalting the Creator over the creation.
- And then you have the whole book of Revelation, where various judgments are not merely the general outworkings of the curse, but specific judgments for large societies and their sins.
So, it’s clear that there are times where God uses specific sickness as judgement for sin.
But that is a level of interpretation of what God is doing and how he’s working that we should not make. So while acknowledging that that happens, it’s not wise for us to jump in and say, “Well, this is happening because of ____.”
- The best example of this, of course, is Job–Job suffered and all his friends were like, “What did you do?” And Job was like, “I haven’t done anything that would single me out for judgment!” And God agreed and said that Job’s friends were wicked for saying his suffering was judgment. He calls them stupid for doing this.
- I think this is especially problematic to do right now with the coronavirus. Perhaps there are some situations out there where God is judging certain people, but it’s not our place to guess.
- We see now that there are some communities in our nation that are suffering more, and perhaps that’s because of unjust situations they’ve been put in. So to turn around and say, “You’re suffering because of your sins,” when in fact it’s in part because of the sins of others, is wrong.
I will say that means that when I am sick or suffering, the first question I ask should be, “Is God trying to get my attention about something?” Is he in mercy trying to wake me up? I do believe that if there is some sin that God is trying to get my attention about, he will reveal it to me quickly. So, while it is true that it does happen, and we should be aware of it, it is never on us to declare that definitively about someone else. What I’ve found is that if God is doing this, he always makes very clear to you what it’s for. He won’t hide that from you. And again, I don’t think it’s wrong to ask the question. But to say, declaratively and come to a conclusion that this is what God is doing, that’s where it becomes wrong.
In Luke 13, there’s a tower that has fallen and killed 18 people. Somebody asks Jesus, “Was this because these 18 people were more wicked than the rest?” Jesus says no, but, “…unless you repent, you will all perish.”
My assumption is not supposed to be, “What was God making that person suffer for?” Instead, we should ask what God is doing in our lives and trying to get our attention about, and recognize the reality of sin.
Sin is serious. Be afraid of it, but don’t dwell on this unless the Holy Spirit makes something plain and clear.
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