Happy Monday everyone (is that what day it is?)
I’m straying from the theme of prayer for this blog. I had a great question from a friend regarding something I said in my message on our Sunday live-stream service. I wanted to share it with you. I’d be really interested to know what you think about this question and my answer to it. Share your comments with me. email@example.com
Here’s what she emailed me: “I just have one question about the sermon that I am trying to wrap my head around. You said that God didn’t create this pandemic but he will help us through it. (Paraphrasing) My question is "if God didn’t create this then who did? If we believe he created the great flood and plagues why would we not believe he created this too? If you could help me to understand that I would really appreciate it.”
My response: This is such a great question _______. I think it’s an issue that is so important to understand correctly.
I think I would begin my answer by making a simple observation: if people really believed that God was the source of disease, the very disease that perhaps killed their loved one, their parent, or their child, it would be very difficult for them to believe that God is Love. Which is the most basic definition of God in the Bible. (1 John 4)
Or, that God is parent, which is the way Jesus described God. What loving parent would ever bring disease willingly upon their children?
In the Bible there are dichotomies that are very clear. For instance, there is “God’, and then, there is “evil”. (Evil is known by different words and names; the devil, Satan, or, as Paul says in Ephesians 6, “the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”).
There is ‘light” and then “dark”. There is “life”, and there is “death”. There is “the Spirit” and then there is the “sinful nature” (Galatians 5)
In each case, the two forces are always diametrically opposed. God’s character is one power, and whatever is opposite of God is the other power. Here’s the big takeaway: Consistently throughout scripture, God is stronger than the opposite power and promises victory over the other.
In our case here, there is “disease” and then, there is “healing”. It’s very interesting to know that the Jews (Israelites) in Jesus’ day did believe that disease came from God. Anyone with leprosy was deemed unclean and thus banned from society. The parents of blind or lame children were thought to have sinned against God. For instance, Kimberley and I would be viewed by the community as having failed God somehow because we have a daughter with a physical challenge.
In fact, whenever anything bad happened, the belief was it was because the victim had wronged God in some way. There’s an interesting passage at Luke 13:1-5. Jesus comments about a tower that fell and killed people. The people assumed it was because the victims had sinned. Jesus makes it clear that there is often no connection between hardship and wrong living. Hardship can come to all.
This is what makes the healing miracles in the Gospel stories so radical. Because in these miracles, Jesus is clearly the power that heals disease and not the cause of the disease. Not only that, but in the healing act the people saw that disease was not a tool of their God, but in fact the enemy of God. As I said in my message yesterday, the life of Jesus reveals that the healing agent that defeats disease is the practice of Love.
The ultimate form of disease is death. Death is the culmination of disease. Death is the “final enemy”, as Paul said when he was talking about the power of the resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:25-26) Death stands diametrically opposed to “life”. And life is what Jesus came to bring, abundantly. In Jesus, there is “victory” over even death. All disease is healed forever.
You bring up the flood story from Genesis. You make a good point that God brought about the flood to deal with evil. To be frank, Old Testament theology can be problematic and as Christians we believe that Jesus brings us a new covenant. But for me, the point of that narrative is firstly that God cannot tolerate prolonged evil. More to our discussion, God promises to never do such a thing again.
We could talk for a while about the real source of disease in our world. Certainly, the ways we live, what we eat, how we treat the earth, and overuse of antibiotics certainly contribute to the evolution of certain viruses. A scientist could add to that list. As we all know, oftentimes in our lives we create our own problems.
But even then, here’s the remarkable thing we know through the life of Jesus: God will still heal. Even if the disease we live within, be it addiction or greed or social injustice or inequality or loneliness or mentall illness, even if all those darknesses are own making, there is always Grace.
God will still come. And call us by name. And put his hand on us. And tell us that we are children of God. And remind us that all things will be made new. No disease can stand against that kind of Love. In this life. And in the next.