An individual illness is a trial, but a worldwide pandemic is of a different order and could be God’s judgment, especially as reasons abound why He would test or judge the world, particularly America, writes a theologian.
“It’s difficult to read biblical descriptions of cities and nations under judgment without being struck by the resemblance to the world, April 2020,” writes Peter Leithart, president of Theopolis Institute for Biblical, Liturgical, & Cultural Studies in Birmingham, Alabama.
“Our city streets are silent; there is no longer the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, not even the wailing of a funeral dirge," Leithart, author, minister and theologian, explains, referring to Jeremiah 7:34.
Our churches are also “empty and still,” he adds. “We should ponder the possibility that the Lord has had enough of our trampling of His courts, and so has put an end to our new moons and feast days (Isaiah 1:10-15).”
There are now more than 2.4 million confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and 165,939 deaths around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the United States, the number of confirmed cases stands at nearly 760,000 with 40,683 deaths.
Leithart explains that judgment includes punishment for sin, but also involves “unmasking, exposure, testing, and clarification.”
“God judges to uncover what’s hidden at the bottom of things,” he writes.
Are there reasons for God to test or to punish? It depends, he says, what part of the world we are looking at. “I can speak only to my home country. In the U.S., I can think of several reasons,” he writes.
Leithart then shares 10 reasons.
One, America has turned from the living God to “love, fear, and trust in idols of our own making,” he writes. “We love comfort more than faithfulness, and we have organized our world to serve our insatiable desire for cushiness. We have become complacent with myriads of idols and quasi-idols, to which we are so devoted that we sometimes even call them (celebrity, movie, sports) idols.”
Two, we don’t honor the image of God in one another, he shares. “We leave the homeless unhoused, the naked unclothed, the hungry hungry. We hide ourselves from our own flesh,” he writes.
Three, While many Americans are baptized and wear the Triune name, “do we bear it with the weight it deserves?” he asks and then answers, “We live as if God didn’t exist. We’re practical idolaters.”
Four, we “know no Sabbath in our 24/7 economy.” He explains that we “give no Sabbath. We break Sabbath by withholding relief from the burdened.”
The fifth reason, he continues, is that we are to protect the elderly from the COVID-19 infection, “but … our social habits and institutions erode the authority of parents, the respect of the young, and the institution of the family.”
Six, about 46 million abortions have taken place in the country since 1973, and counting, he points out. “In many places, killing unborn children is deemed an essential service during the pandemic.”
The seventh reason, he writes, is that we “defy God’s sexual norms, and insist on our Constitutional right to do so. Many mock the very notion of sexual purity.”
Eight, he continues, we take hope from a rise in the stock market in the midst of a pandemic. “Domestic and foreign policy have long been directed toward the final end of a rising GDP. Labor is good; wealth is good; increasing wealth is good. But we have fashioned God’s good gifts into the idol Mammon.”
The ninth reason is that our public discourse is not truthful. “Do we, as Luther said, put the best construction on the words of ideological opponents? To ask is to answer.”
The last reason, he writes, is that all industries are devoted to “fostering covetousness.” “Envy infects our politics. Our hungers and thirsts are not directed toward the righteousness of God’s kingdom.”
In his concluding remarks, Leithart says that if normalcy returns, that would be the Lord’s mercy. “But we shouldn’t misconstrue relief as God's approval,” he warns. “Our repentance needs to be radical, or soon enough we’ll face something else, something worse.”