By now, everyone is probably getting tired of the news of this Coronavirus pandemic. I hear you! I grow weary of it, too. But as a Christian Apologist, I cannot ignore this global issue that causes some to mischaracterize God.
There are typically two kinds of responses that come up during natural disasters, like the Coronavirus:
1. One is often brought up by the atheist who claims that if God is all-powerful and all-loving (or even real), why doesn’t He just stop this thing from hurting people? If He doesn’t, then God is not all-powerful or all-loving, they assume, which fuels their lack of belief.
2. The other is from handful of Christians who think that this virus is God’s judgement against people, since many have turned from His ways.
Both are a misunderstanding of God and His character.
1. The atheist’s charge
The non-believer doesn’t understand the big picture narrative of what God is doing on the Earth and why He allows suffering. He allows bad things to happen for one primary reason: free will. When God created humanity in His image, part of that image is the ability to make choices freely. This is the one thing we actually own – choices. Everything else has been given to us, and we are merely using it.
My pastor once said the one thing that scared him the most was free will. I agree. People can make really terrible choices. We can be horrible, and yet we have the potential for beautiful things, too. I think the beautiful things we can do is the reason God gambled with creating us – we have such amazing potential for great things. Yet, on the flip side, historically, people have done really stupid things.
Consider this pandemic. The corona virus supposedly began by doing something risky with animals that caused an unknown virus to cross over to humans. Humans haven’t built up an immunity to this one – yet. The potential for lost lives is high, especially for those with compromised immune systems. The exact cause is still unknown, but it’s most likely from people eating some weird animal substance that carried this deadly virus. Or perhaps it is just an honest mistake? It could be.
What is important to note is that God doesn’t want anyone to suffer from this virus. Yes, some will suffer and some will die. This is tragic from our point of view. Yet God has a different view: death is not the end of a person. And in a theistic worldview, suffering is not without meaning. God will use it. He uses things like this to bring out the best in people, or to show us how sinful we can be in times of crisis (hoarding toilet paper, anyone?).
People’s true character will surface in circumstances like these. How are you going to respond? Will you hoard things in fear? Will you stock just enough to be safe and then help others in need? Will you help those who are stuck in a “flight or fight” response by being an example of one who walks in faith during this time? Where does your faith ultimately rest?
In God’s economy, nothing is wasted.
In a purely atheistic worldview, this virus is just sifting out those who are not the fittest people. That’s the raw truth. Without God, this is just nature doing its thing of “natural selection.” With God, this is something that can be used to refine your character, and that is what God is most interested in – we are all to be growing in Christ-likeness. (1 John 2:6.)
How will this crisis grow you?
For one, it has forced us all to slow down. The pace of life is frenetic, at times. People keep themselves so busy that they are often unreflective. Perhaps this time when we are told to “stay home” will change that. Maybe more people will stop and think about what is most important in their lives.
2. God’s Judgement?
The other response to a crisis like this comes from some Christians who think that this is God’s judgement. I am not sure these people understand the Atonement. God judged ALL sin on the cross once and for all. If we think this pandemic is God’s judgement on the Earth, then what happened on the Cross of Christ? Be careful with what you say about disasters. Remember, Jesus died for ALL sins of ALL people for ALL time. We also live in a fallen world not made right – yet. Recognize that all the earth groans for the restoration of all things:
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
Full redemption of the Earth is yet to come. Until then, today we’re living in what some have called the “Day of Salvation.” This means that people still have a choice to believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Someday that time will end when Jesus returns to make a final judgement.
Until that day, we are Christ’s ambassadors on Earth. Be Jesus to people right now. You are the Body of Christ! As Vice-President Mike Pence recently said during a corona virus briefing, “Put feet on your faith.”
Let’s walk by faith and not by sight. (2 Cor. 5:7.) Let’s reach out and help those who are most vulnerable. And remember the most repeated phrase in the Bible is “do not be afraid,” which appears in the NIV 70 times.
Do not be afraid, and help others that are fearful. Let them see your faith in action by how you respond to this pandemic.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.”
— Proverbs 3:5-6