We are living in interesting times right now. “Normal life,” as we’ve known it, has flown out the proverbial window, and we’re left to either wonder when the end of this madness will come or why it’s happening in the first place.
Unsurprisingly, times of panic and fear are fertile ground for conflicting reactions and opinions. In a time when parents are now teachers and Zoom meetings are now church buildings, there is no shortage of “experts” telling us the why’s and when’s of this social crisis. Unfortunately, many believers have entered this fray, and though their hearts are undoubtedly in the right place, their words sometimes miss the mark.
The truth is this is a perfect time for Christians to evangelize. These are the times when God shines as His power is, and will continue to be, very evident. What God doesn’t need is for us to defend Him, nor does He need us to advance our opinions on what He is doing or why this is happening.
As a minister and counselor, I’ve had many disillusioned people come to me lately in confusion, fear, and even anger over what some Christians have offered as rationalizations for what is befalling the world right now. This is a time to turn people toward God, not away from Him, and our words have the power to do either.
There are three specific explanations I believe Christians should stop saying during this pandemic or any other crisis:
1. “This is God’s judgment against the world.”
Just saying this sets up an image of God as the mean and angry Judge up in the sky, waving His mighty scepter around and throwing pestilence this way and that because He has simply had it with mankind. This is simply not true. God already judged mankind in the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve rebelled against the authority of God by listening to and acting on the temptations from Satan, sin entered the world and the earth was judged. Nothing will ever be perfect again until Jesus returns. Every catastrophe that hits us while we live on this fallen planet isn’t an individual judgment from God. It’s a consequence of the moment sin entered existence.
2. “He (or she) got sick because of a lack of faith.”
This one has been a hotbed of misinterpretation, and it is also one of the leading reasons many have either left the faith or not embraced it in the first place. Jesus says in Matthew 17: “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
But when passages like this are used to justify statements that infer someone’s lack of faith caused them to get sick, we step into the role of judge and jury. In truth, that passage, as well as all the others in the Bible referring to faith as a means to healing and prevention of sickness, is about relationship with God. It’s about knowing God and His character so well that our faith lies in Him, not in what we expect from Him. Our faith is in God and His promises.
Thomas Schreiner wrote: