Long before the advent of COVID-19, it had become fashionable for many preachers to tell their congregations that the economic hardship, climatic and war calamities across parts of the world were God’s punishment for humanity for its sins.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, many more preachers, particularly of the Christian faith, have become even more emphatic that the virus was sent by God as punishment for man.
Early this week, one of the most highly regarded men of God across the world, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, was reported as saying that COVID-19 is a plague sent by God “The corona virus is a plague sent by God to show that he is still in charge”, Pastor Adeboye reportedly said.
But I do not think such a statement edifies God since it gives the impression that God sees man, his own creation, as a rival. With due respect, it is a wrong way of presenting God, the Omnipotent, the Omniscience and the Omnipresence.
How can God, our loving father, have a hand in the death of hundreds of people through such a deadly virus? Let us remember what the Bible says in 2 Peter 3:9, that “God is not willing that any soul should perish…” Daddy Adeboye, disagrees with some other men of God who say the pandemic is from the devil.
He points out that even in the case of Job, the devil could not touch Job until, according to him, “God gave him express permission”.
It is true that the Bible has records of God’s anger and judgment on a people, as in Sodom and Gomorrah and during the reign of King Ahaziah of Israel when God used the prophet, Elijah, to bring down the fire of judgment on those who opposed him.
But Christians, particularly believers, need to distinguish between what happened before the death of Jesus at the cross and after that. God wants us to separate what belongs to the old covenant of law and what belongs to the new covenant of grace.
In 2 Timothy chapter 2 verses 15, the Bible tells us to rightly divide the word of God. In that scripture, Apostle Paul told his young apprentice, Timothy, to be “diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”.
There is a whole lot of difference between what happened before and after Jesus shed his precious blood at the cross.
That was why Jesus himself rebuked His disciples when they suggested to Him that fire be commanded to come down from heaven to consume some villagers in Samaria who did not want Him amongst them. As recorded in Luke 9:54 -56, the disciples had told Jesus thus: “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them just as Elijah did?” But what was the Lord’s response? Did he agree with the suggestion by His disciples? He did not.
Rather, the Bible records that Jesus turned to his disciples and said: “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them” In John 10:10, the Lord himself says, “the thief comes not but to steal and to kill and to destroy: I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly”
Even in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah, God nearly spared the city because of the pleas by Abraham. God promised Abraham that if there could be found even only 10 righteous men in the city, he would not destroy it for their sake.
When God sent the angels to rescue Lot, Abraham’s nephew, the encounter between Lot and the angels shows that God would have spared the city even for the sake of Lot only. The angels asked Lot to hurry out of the city so that the destruction could be carried out.
According to the scriptures as recorded in Genesis 19:22, the angels told Lot thus: “Haste you; escape there for I cannot do anything till you are come there…” In other words, they had to wait until Lot was out of Sodom and Gomorrah.
It was only after he had safely arrived Zoar, a neighbouring city, that the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah.
There are still enough righteous people in the world at large to make God to continue to have mercy on His people. If God could have saved Sodom because of just 10 people and indeed because of just Lot, then it is a big fallacy to say that he has sent destruction to the world through any afflictions on man.
That is not God’s plan for us. In Jeremiah 29: 11, the word of God says: “For I know the thoughts that I think towards you, said the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give an expected end”
Yes, there are passages in the Old Testament where God threatened to chastise those who fail to obey His commandments. In Leviticus 26:28 the Bible says, “I will chastise you seven times for your sins”. That was God speaking to His own people. But that was under the old covenant of law.
Under the new covenant of grace, God no longer chastises his people, particularly believers, because all his chastisement and punishment were taken by Jesus on the cross of Calvary. Even in the Old Testament, there was a prophecy on the role Jesus would play in mediating between God and His people over their sins.
“Surely He has borne our grief and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgression, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53: 4-5).
The above scripture shows that there was a prophetic vision that Jesus will bear the punishment for our sins. And He did just that. He achieved that perfectly.
The punishment that we deserved was borne by Jesus and as such, no believer need ever go through the same punishment Jesus went through. This is the good news.
The belief or teaching that God would punish mankind as a whole, including those who believe in His son, Christ Jesus, with plagues or calamities is contrary to the essence of Christianity, which is that Jesus Christ died for our sins.
If we are still to receive punishment for our sins, then why was He punished since He knew no sin himself? Some preachers were even heard saying that each time somebody sins, he or she is crucifying Jesus again! Haba!. That is a big trivialization of what Christ Jesus suffered on the way to Calvary and at the cross.
The Bible says He made the sacrifice once and for all. (Hebrews 10: 11 -14) Agreed, such teachings might be aimed at emphasizing the gravity of a sinful life. But it is a needless emphasis because it makes what Christ did at the cross to look cheap.
God is not behind the ugly condition the world faces today. At the cross, Jesus took all our sicknesses and calamities. All what we need do is to simply look at Jesus on the cross, where he is beaten and scourged on the cross and receive our healing or a supernatural escape from earthly problems.
At the cross, Jesus redeemed the life of the believer from destruction. Would you give your son a terminal disease to teach him a lesson? If you would not do so to your child, why do you think of our Father in heaven would inflict calamity on His own people in order to teach them a lesson? The Psalmist in Psalm 30 says: “What profit is there in my blood when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? Shall it declare thy truth”.
Sicknesses and calamities are not from God. God would never use sickness, accidents or bad fortune to teach His children lessons. God was rightly angry with mankind before the coming of Jesus.
But He sent Jesus, His only begotten son, to come to the world to take punishment for all our sins. All what you need do to be a beneficiary is to accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour.
The point, therefore, is that the notion that it is God who decreed COVID-19 on humanity and that it can only come to an end when He pleases seems to negate the scientific and empirical measures being taken across the globe to contain the virus.
Nobody can, of course, argue that mankind should not look up to the Lord to, in His infinite mercy once more, help save his children from this calamity. Even the Americans, with all their sophistication and wealth, spent an entire day supplicating to the Lord to come to the aid of mankind.
Happily, Daddy Adeboye and other eminent men of God in Nigeria have asked the Christian faithful to strictly observe the directives given by government in the effort to contain the spread of the virus in the country.