An essay by missionary Ken Wells on the current pandemic.
During this period of quarantine, confusion, and not a little bit of fear on the part of many, I would like to offer some much-needed words of godly wisdom for how to think rightly about the Coronavirus. Now, this is not a ‘sound-bite’ essay so it will require you to read a bit. But let’s be honest, you probably have more time now on your hands than you had a week ago. So, please take the time to read this to the end.
As a Christian, I intend to mean that wisdom is neither scientific knowledge nor life experience. (yet it is not opposed to either of these). Wisdom is simply knowing and applying the mind of God on a given matter. It, therefore, requires an understanding of the universe (because God exists and is active) akin to a 3-sided box with the top wide open for interaction between us and the spirit world - which by that, I mean, demons, angels and, of course, God Himself. (This is straight Bible, here.)
By contrast, what I will call, 'the non-believing world' sees the universe inside of a box with 4 sides (a closed system, if you will) where there is nothing beyond itself to interact with - no angels, demons, or God. (Think J. Lennon: “Imagine there’s no heaven, above us only sky.”). This latte view is where most of the scientific community lives and derives its knowledge. I don’t know which box you are living in as I write to you, but I see the world as 3- sided. The box is open.
So far, so good?
With those 2 views of the world in mind, you can easily see which one dominates the majority of people’s thinking. Most of us have been told, taught, and trained to ‘see’ the world as a closed system. That is why you will hardly hear any world leaders or political pundits suggesting that people pray concerning this most recent global calamity. They are looking strictly to science and the collective human intellect, because in the 4-sided box, that is all there is. The so-called ‘spiritual dimension’ even if there was such a realm, has no bearing on the physical world, they say.
But God says something different.
Enter Jesus Christ into human history. He is the God-man who bridges the spiritual and physical realms, providing 'the mind of God' to anyone who seeks it through His revealed Word. And divine revelation is precisely the need of the moment, isn’t it? Christians have always understood the limitations of human knowledge for finding God. "O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and untraceable His ways! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who had been His counselor?" (Romans 11:34)
Since knowledge of God and His ways are “untraceable,” we are most dependent upon Jesus, who alone came from God. "No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son who is Himself God. . . He has revealed Him" (John 1:18)
Among other things, this means that the people seeing themselves in the 4-sided box can, at best, only acquire what the Bible calls 'worldly wisdom' about any given issue. It's not that they are stupid, but they are limited to the information found in their box. Perhaps it shouldn’t surprise anyone that God calls such wisdom, ‘foolishness’. “Claiming to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:22). Unless they change their view of the world, they can NEVER know the mind of God and that is the fatal flaw of secular epistemology (our methods for ‘knowing’). It is also a death sentence concerning future human existence. Foolishness, though dressed up as wisdom, still has it’s consequences.
But getting back to Jesus -
"In Him, all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible . . . and all things hold together through Him.” (Colossians 1:16) Christians understand that Jesus is not only the revealer of God and the power of God – He is God, Himself! “Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:8-9)
Here is my point: While everyone is looking for a vaccine, few are asking, “What is God thinking?” “What is He doing? This is foolishness on its face because all things, including viruses, are at His disposal. They “hold together” because of Him. It may be instructive for us to remember that in Biblical times, God often used ‘natural disasters’ (pestilence, famine etc.) to get the attention of people who had stopped listening to His prophets. So, doesn’t it follow that God is doing nothing less with this catastrophe? We are so slow to connect God to what is going on. Yet, wisdom demands that we would see the world through His eyes and that we abandon the false system that says there is no place for Him. He would have us to be spared from a future full of inadequate information, increased self-absorption and avoidable human suffering – all of which are visibly on the rise. These realities should not surprise, because this is all that a system without God can produce. Do you not see that?
Friends, God WILL be heard! His holiness demands His participation in His world and His sovereignty grants Him the authority to act freely. Christians who have been ‘listening’ to Him for centuries through careful study of His Word have never put their final hope in science, government, or even their own cunning. They have accepted as ‘true’ what God has said about such things - that human conventions cannot save us from what matters most. And here is why: There is a pervasive darkness in this world that is ever on the increase. The Bible calls it sin and it is a slave to evil. Its promise is always a better life, but throughout history, its fruit has always been death. Such darkness undermines the ‘common good will’ because its source resides within the human soul. So, the Apostle Paul: “I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7:19). Can you not relate to that? Sin, being rooted in our nature, means that we cannot extricate ourselves from it without engaging in self-destruction.
And hasn’t this truth been borne out in the general trend of human history?
“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” (James 4:1-3)
Think about this, please. If the Coronavirus would serve to remind us of how little control we actually have over our lives, we might one day view its arrival as an act of God’s kindness. We might conclude, for example, that He used it to turn our lives back to Him. That would be something good that could come out of all of this. It could happen.
Probably most of us are still confident that scientists will develop a vaccine for the Coronavirus (and all Christians pray for such) but let’s not miss the bigger need. There will be no vaccine forthcoming for sin. This is what a loving God would have each of us to realize as we wrestle with the meaning of the Coronavirus. He would have us to ask ourselves why we so earnestly crave a cure for it yet show indifference to the sin that so degrades our lives in this world and condemns us in the next. Consider that Coronavirus, as of today, has a 3% mortality rate. That mean 97% of the people survive. With sin, no one survives. Ever.
Now if you are a ‘4-sider’, you might say to me here, “I have no sin and I resent you saying that my life is degraded. In fact, I was quite happy until this Coronavirus came along.” But again, such thinking underscores how delicate and relative happiness, apart from God, is. Most people are happy . . . until. There is always peace in the world until there is war, for example. “My life was great, until my boyfriend broke-up with me.”, etc., etc. Why is there always an ‘until’? When will happiness and peace become constants? God says that day will come when He eradicates sin and evil from His universe, once and for all. Sin and evil are the components that degrade life and condemn people for eternity. The inevitability of ‘a better day’ was established when Jesus took sin to the cross in His own body and suffered all of its hideous consequences at the hands of a Holy God. The result, for those who trust in His sacrifice, is a new kind of person who knows for the first time what inner cleanliness feels like and whose happiness comes from above (the Bible calls it joy). I am confident of a cure for the Coronavirus but, “Salvation [from sin] is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved " (Acts 4:12). Only Jesus.
For those of us who are already saved, this may be a time to re-evaluate just how much you have actually been trusting God for your needs. The societal fear that is becoming increasingly palpable is not limited to ‘unbelievers.’ Perhaps we need to hear the admonition of Job once again, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10). Christians are not, and never have been, exempt from the difficult providences that God sometimes brings to bear upon His world. That being said, we are to remember to “cast all of our cares upon Him, because He cares for [us].” (1Pet.5:7). That means there is always grace to be found in the midst of heartache. Have you been giving your cares over to your Savior daily? Let His Spirit renew your joy and His promises embolden your faith. Remember, “. . . those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)
Friend, maybe now it is time for you to reconsider God – to punch a hole in the top of your box to let the light of His Word enter into your world. Why not take a minute and ask yourself if He isn’t speaking to your heart right now? Wisdom says that you can, and should, do this. Cry out to Him. Tell Him you want truth - not just about an epidemic - but about yourself and, most importantly, about who He is. If you will trust Him as the ultimate ‘truth-teller’ (because God cannot lie) then you will know that His solution in sending His Son to be punished in your place was the only one possible that can really save you. Can you do that? If you will trust Him, then God will save you. Absolutely. Because “all who call upon the name of the Lord will (not might) be saved." (Romans 10:13).
Of course, you don’t have to do anything. You can stay in your box and remain closed off from God. But you should know that in doing so you are failing to understand that the crisis we are experiencing today is nothing compared to a coming period in human history. So called 'natural' disasters (all originating from God) will be so severe in that period that "the kings of the earth, the nobles, the commanders, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and free man, (will hide) in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they (will say) to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of the One seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath had come, and who is able to withstand it?" (Revelation 6:15-17).
These disasters will no longer be ‘attention-getters’, but the beginnings of God’s judgement against a humanity that has rejected Him for the final time. As I said, He is not a dispassionate observer toward the world He created. God cares – deeply. And like us, His passions flow in both directions. Now is the time to turn your back on your sin and your heart towards Him. If the current health crisis helps you to do that, then it will have had a redemptive purpose, after all. I pray so.
The powerful technologies and infrastructures of the world gained through science and human ingenuity indeed bring many benefits, and no Christian would say otherwise. But when they become ends in themselves - when we rely on them instead of God for understanding our humanity and the purpose of life; when men turn to Google while ignoring God’s Word – then these things become what the Bible refers to as ‘idols’ and those who rely on them, ‘idolaters’. God hates idolatry.
So here is wisdom: “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8)
By all means make use of soap and water throughout your day. But also “draw near to God” – even today - asking Him to “purify your heart.” In that moment, while you are trusting God, He will prove Himself trustworthy and He will wash you with “the blood of Jesus, His Son, [which] cleanses us from all sin." (John 1:7). If you do this (and not merely hear it) God will reveal Himself as the “Great Physician” that He is, and you will prove to be wise in an otherwise foolish world.
Thank you for reading to the end. Feel free to contact me with any comments/questions.
Christian Missionary Udine, Italy
Ken Wells is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary (M-Div, 2000). He and his wife have been missionaries to northern Italy since 2005