HAVING A BIBLICAL VIEW of the PRESENT PANDEMIC

Here’s one of the best articles about what we’re all presently going through, as Christians, as ministers; from Asbury Theological Seminary President, Dr Timothy Tennent (by his express permission to publish for NACM members):

The Bridge of San Luis Rey and the Tower of Siloam  

–  by Dr Timothy Tennent; the Asbury Alumni Link, May 2020)

I remember the exact point when I fell in love with literature. Even as a small child, I loved to read. Whenever I had a spare minute, my mother tells me she would find me curled up in a corner reading a book. But it was in 1972 (I was thirteen years old at that time) that I really “fell in love” with literature. My parents had given me a copy of Thornton Wilder’s classic novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, first published in 1927 and a best-seller ever since. It was like no other book I had ever read. I wouldn’t have understood it as a thirteen-year-old, but the book is actually about the problem of evil.

The fictional story takes place in Peru in the year 1714. There was a long rope bridge which stretched across a canyon. It had been woven together years before by the Incas. At noon on July 20, 1714, five people were crossing the rope bridge when it suddenly broke, sending all five down the canyon and to their deaths. This horrible tragedy was witnessed by a Franciscan friar named brother Juniper. He wonders why those five people were on the bridge at that particular time. There were several who were just a few feet from stepping onto the bridge when it broke, and several others who had just completed the crossing seconds before it broke. Why were those saved and the others lost? Brother Juniper spends six years interviewing everyone he could find who knew those five people, trying to discern some underlying reason or theme which would make sense of this tragedy. But, there was no common thread. Some were godly people, some were not; some were rich, others not; some were beloved, others, not so much, etc. Without giving away the plot and having to give out a “spoiler alert,” let me just say that Brother Juniper struggles in finding a satisfying answer.

The novel has come back to me in recent days as the Coronavirus has swept across our nation and the world. Daily stories pour in about the people who have died. We are now told that the number of dead just in the USA, even with complete adherence to “stay-at-home” orders and “social distancing” will be around 100,000 people, perhaps more. There are already quite a few examples of devout Christians who have died from COVID-19. There will surely be countless Christians who will someday praise God because they never did catch it.

Jesus himself addressed a situation like this in Luke 13. There was a tower in a neighborhood on the south side of Jerusalem known as the Tower of Siloam. It unexpectedly collapsed, and 18 people were killed. Jesus clearly states that those who died in the tower that day were not “worse offenders” than others who lived in Jerusalem. But, he uses the tragedy as a general call for all people to repent. What can we learn from this? First, we know that the collapse of the Tower of Siloam was not a sign of God’s particular judgment against those particular 18 people. Second, we learn that all people need to be mindful of the brevity of life, and Jesus himself reminds us of the importance to live each day with an attitude of repentance and humility.

We live in a world which regularly testifies to its own brokenness. Towers fall, active shooters shoot, viruses spread, and planes crash into buildings. But we know that someday this world will come to an end, and that the final enemy, known as death, will itself be killed by the eternal power of Jesus Christ. We live in the “in-between” time of a kingdom fully inaugurated, but not yet fully consummated.

In the 14th century the Incans made amazing rope bridges, but they could rot and break. So, we have worked together and produced better bridges. That is an important Christian instinct. That is the image of God at work in us and through us. Countless diseases have stalked the world, because the world is broken and fallen. We have developed inoculations against many diseases, and I am sure we will find an antidote to COVID-19 as well. Whatever team of scientists produces this will be bearing witness not only to a fallen world, but, whether they acknowledge it or not, to our longing for a healed creation which will only be fully realized when Christ returns and fully consummates his Kingdom. Meanwhile, the whole world has been “subjected […] to bondage” and, “the whole creation is groaning […] up until the present time” (Romans 8:20-22). Apart from sin, there would be no murders, terrorists, viruses, or any other signs that we live in a broken world. Meanwhile, we groan.

Scripture has long testified to the twin truths that God is both all loving and all powerful. Psalm 62:11 says, “Once God has spoken, twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.” But, the Psalm goes on to remember the other free agent in the world when it concludes, “for you will render to a man according to his work” (Psalm 62:11, 12). Our actions are brought into the picture. The problem of evil is not just about God’s character, it’s about our own. The use of our power and the extension of our own goodness, through the image of God and the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit through and through us.

God’s answer to the “problem of evil” is not to give us some amazing theological resolution or an intricate philosophical formula. Rather, God responds to evil by entering into the world, not in a show of power, but in a show of weakness and vulnerability. That’s the other mystery of God’s power and love. Sometimes his greatest power is manifested in weakness, and sometimes his love allows hard lessons to come our way that we might turn our hearts more fully to him and away from our false idols. Jesus alone has taken on all this sin and pain, evil and shame. If you want to understand the heart of God in the face of a world trapped by sin, then look into the face of the crucified Jesus. The cross is God’s answer to human pain. He doesn’t give us an answer to suffering, he bears it. We are now in Eastertide. This season reminds us that Jesus is victorious over all the brokenness of the world. Easter testifies to God’s victory over sin and death! We, who are called by his name, are heralds of this victory. But, we cannot look fully into the glorious, victorious face of Jesus Christ without reaching out and grasping his nail scarred hands.

Thank you for reading the article.  Feel free to post your thoughts in a reply!

8 thoughts on “HAVING A BIBLICAL VIEW of the PRESENT PANDEMIC”

  1. This article was so uplifting!! 
    This is a time of families being close and of focusing attention toward God! At least that would be the helpful perspective in these times. God didn’t send this COVID, but God can be praised thru it. We can look for opportunities to be the lights of Christ love!! Jesus is coming soon. We can see the whole earth is groaning!  Where will our moments & time be spent?  Hopefully it spurs us to see the brevity in life. The urgency to make the moments count. And the awesomeness of God in the midst of a storm!!  Be blessed friends. Stay safe. Draw closer to Christ!! Read more, pray more, and do more…For the Kingdom!! 🙌❤️

  2. Hello All,

         This article confirm for me that we are God's Angels residing on earth with all our earthly flaws. He knows we are winners. Yet, there are times Brokenness is His journey for believers and non-believers. Without brokenness when will we as Christians make time to heal our minds, bodies and our souls? When will the intended message be fulfill to have a flagship of unsaintly conversing about the joy of God's gift?. According to Dr. Timothy Tennent, "Rather, God responds to evil by entering into the world, not in a show of power, but in a show of weakness and vulnerability. This is similar to brokenness the result of illness, starvation, sadness etc., which amounts to societal-behaviors that affect everyone. I refer to the words when darkness is without light; Angels are watching, they will not leave you alone. They are at work strengthening our souls while we fall spray to weakness –building the bridges necessary for learn salvation is promise. It is our will that reinforce the rope that untwines our faith. At times we suffer, yet we open our hearts to follow the path to divine love and forgiveness. I heard the call therefore it has been important to share the word with vigorous spirit.

    Covid-19 is our compass to re-center the challenges that we face this generation and the next. WE have been successful past and in to the future with our faith. Success is the breath of the Book.

    I wish to recommend this reading: Broken things, authored by M.R. DeHaan 

    •  I  was  reading  the  book  of Lamentation  when God  The  punishment  of Zion  Accomplished.  Our Country  can  fall under  this category  because  what going on  in our Country [Coronavirus]  President against  President  of the same Country.   People  feel  imprisonment because of  the changes made  to survive,  Rioting and  tearing up  our city in  Chicago.  The  killings coming  unmercifully  in our  Country  and this change is rapid  and  the  Prayer  for   Mercy  in  the book of  Lamentation  is  what  you are  saying,  which  is

      Remember, O  LORD,  what  is come  upon us:  consider,  and behold our   reproach. [2]  Our  inheritance  is  turned  to strangers,  our houses  to aliens. [3]  we  are  orphans  and  fatherless [sins overbearing]  our mothers are widows [many  deaths][4]  We  have drunken  our water  for money;  our  wood  is  sold unto  us. [5]  Our necks  are  under  persecution. [Coronavirus  and  Rioting ,  we  labor,  and  have  no  rest. [6]  we have  given the  hand  to  the  Egyptians [Settled],  and  to  the  Assyrians [Settled]  to be  satisfy  with  bread. [7]  Our  fathers  have  sinned,  and  are  not;  and we  have borne  their iniquities [no   better  judger  than they]. [8]  Servants have  ruled  over  us' their  is none  that doet deliver us  out  of  their hand. [9]  We gat our bread  with  the  peril  of our  lives,  because  the sword  of  the  wilderness. [10]  Our  skin  was  black  like an oven  because  of  the terrible famine [rotten meats  and vegetables]. [11]  They  ravished  the  women in  Zion,  and  the  maids  in the  cities  of  Judah. [12]  Princes are hanged  by  their  hand:  the  faces  of  elders  were  not honored. [13]  They took  the young men  to grind,  and  the  children  fell under  the  wood. [14]  The  elders  have  ceased  from the  gate,  the   young men from their music. [15  The  joy  of  our heart  is ceased;  our dance has  turned  into mourning. [16]  The crown is  falling  from our head:  woe  unto  us,  that we have  sinned! [17]  For  this our heart is faint;  for these  things    our eyes are  dim. [18]   Because  of  the  mountain of  Zion,  which  is desolate,  the  foxes walk upon it. [19]  Thou,  O  LORD,  remember  for  ever;  thy  throne  from generation  to generation. [20]  Wherefore  dost  thou forget  us  forever?,  and  forsake  us for  so long  time? [21]  Turn  Thou  us  unto  thee,  O  LORD,  and we  shall  be turned: [22]  But  thou has  utterly  rejected  us;  thou  art  very  wroth  against  us.   Lamentation 5..                             At this  time because we know  that we have faith in God we will not sin but  we  will  continue to believe  that God will  make a way  out of no way.  Keep  us  praying  and  resting  in His Bosom  of  His Love.  I  thank  you  for the  messages because  it inspires me and gives me confidence  that  my  leaders are continuing to  trust  in  God Almighty.  Amen

  3. Our Easter Lillies blossomed this week – they are deliciously fragrant and pure white. Mentioning Eastertide evoked so many wonderful holy emotions. Pentecost shall be on Sunday May 31st this year, Ascension Day Thursday May 21st. These 40 days between the Resurrection and Ascension were the time that the dead were seen walking the streets of Jerusalem, Jesus appeared multiple times in various places even inviting Thomas to finger His crucifixion wounds and thrust his hand into His spear pierced side. Then resurrected Jesus God our Savior ate some honeycomb with them! 500 Witnesses watched Jesus ascend to God our Father, and before rising into the clouds told them to wait for the Promise – God the Holy Spirit in us – Christ in me the hope of glory. I am undone before God. Thank You Lord for inhabiting me, this tabernacle, this house You made without hands for Your good pleasure according to Your good will and Your good purpose. I am so grateful. Thank You God 🙂

     
  4. For me the article confirms to continue Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; and to stand firm on His Word and promises. Letting nothing move me. Giving myself fully to the work of the LORD, because I know that my labor in the LORD is not in vain. I have had some horrible seasons and suffered on many occasions and God has kept me; I've come out with a few scars, but I'm still standing. Praise the Lord. I am thankful for His grace, which is sufficient for me.  Revisiting Job, John, Paul and other holy people of God is a reminder of what a wonderful God I serve.

    Elder Rodgers,  I wholeheartedly agree with your last statement:  "I trust in the Lord, in whom I abide and walk closely in His Spirit, to show me when His intention is to heal, or to suffer through, or to go Home – for me, and those He leads me to minister to. Praise the Lord!

    • :  Thanks, Ruby: when you've suffered, you know the faithfulness of God more than any other way!  There is a season for everything, but He never leaves us but brings us through.  Psalm 34 has become especially encouraging to me over the last several years, with my wife especially suffering as she has been, and myself as well (but nothing like the painful issue Sarah deals with daily) – especially verse 19: "MANY are the afflictions of the righteous (those in Christ), BUT the Lord goes with them through them all!"  Deliverance is not always instantaneous – sometimes we have to bear it and go through; but just as Israel suffering through the wilderness, "In all their afflictions, He was afflicted".  We don't like this "promise" of suffering, but all those who have gone before us have gone through the "fire" – even Jesus!  But He knows how to bring us through – and by it, we grow in faith and grace in ways that cannot be had any other way.  

  5. For me, this article just confirmed much what the Lord was already impressing on my mind.  I had Jesus' words, "The rain falls on the just and the unjust", rehearsing frequently in my thoughts in light of the present pandemic situation.  These things, especially in context of the END TIMES narratives, are certain to increase – and yes, God saves His People in the midst of judgment.  Yet, even Christians suffer in this world: we look to and trust God's hand on our lives, both, as Job so well stated, for good…and the bad.  "Bad things happen to good people", Harold Kushner wrote in his well known book; but so says our Father, Jesus and the Apostles, too.  While on one hand we can give testimony to God's amazing interventions in our lives, we call also equally share His amazing grace when He brought us through times of even great sufferings.  And our greatest testimony!?  When, by whatever means, we die – by disease, accident, disaster, the fault of others, or expire on a bed of old age – and shed this mortal coil to put on our heavenly garment to the glory of Christ's promise of such!  It is, despite whatever befalls us, a win-win situation for those in Christ!  We trust in the Lord, in whom we abide and walk closely in His Spirit, to show us when His intention is to heal, or to suffer through, or to go Home – for us, and those He leads us to minister to.

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