As I have observed the reactions of people to this coronavirus outbreak, one particular reaction is something I cannot allow to simply go by unchecked, and that is the Christian who says essentially this, “God’s in control, not me. I don’t want to be talking all negative and stuff, so just love Jesus, trust God and do what you’re asked to do.”
My friends, I absolutely believe God is sovereign and in control of everything. The Bible is clear that God has “declared the end from the beginning” so that His council shall stand, and He will accomplish all His purposes (Isaiah 46:9-10). But remember the prophet who uttered these words. That same prophet said harsh things, rebuked his countrymen, and the state, quite frankly, for their sin and idolatry. He believed God was utterly sovereign over everything, and yet he called out the nations for the evil they were engaged in, and that they will be held accountable for it.
The attitude of this kind of Christian, I’m sorry, is contrary to the prophets and apostles, including the Supreme Prophet and Apostle, Jesus Christ. Jesus rebukes the religious leaders of his day for putting burdens on people that they could not carry, for being white-washed tombs, disobedient to God in their hearts, and being the greatest hypocrites in Jewish history. The apostles were not much different. They defied the commands of the religious leaders to stop preaching about Jesus. John the Baptist called out Herod for his wickedness.
There are many examples of this we can find in the apostles and prophets; men and women who stood up to the authorities of their day, and called spades what they were. This of course is not a call for evangelical Americans to take up arms and chase their representatives out of office at gunpoint. The apostles defied the authorities, sometimes entirely, but mostly with their convictions, and preaching, while allowing themselves to be harmed and killed. But they went to their deaths still with the convictions and rebukes of the pagan world around them.
As Christians, we are called to be obedient to our authorities, as Paul says. At the same time, this does not mean we are to be silent in the face of lying, direct abuse and even killing at the hands of the government, and make no mistake, what the government is asking us to do by maintaining this economic lockdown is to slowly kill ourselves. We may save ourselves for a few weeks from a virus, but a virus of a different type follows. It’s the calm before the tsunami hits.
Christians are called to suffer whatever difficulties come our way, but we are not called to suffer them in total silence and bliss. May we endure the wounds God has designated for us, but let us call out the injustices of those who deliver the blows. If the apostles and the early church did as some Christians today are doing, we would simply not be here. The battle for the Trinity would have been lost; how many of these Christians would have told Athanasius that he was taking this thing too seriously, being unloving, unreasonable, and disrupting unity, and perhaps considered that he may be suffering secret sin not allowing him to trust God with all of this.
Athanasius Against the World
Athanasius stood against the entire world for the Nicene Creed, not because he was a stubborn man (though that certainly helped), but because he was willing to stand with the truth of Scripture against any and all authority, and he didn’t need to be a churchless man, faithless man, nor a violent man to do it. It was the exact opposite; it was because he trusted God, and believed God that he was driven to do what he did, to stand even having been exiled five times from his own office as bishop for the truth.
The entire Christian world wanted to end this theological fight, let the Arians have their day and just get along. But to Athanasius, this was worth the headache he was causing the Church. Tell me, Christian, was he right or wrong? Was the truth of the Trinity, the central factor of the Gospel, not worth the headache? Would you have told him, “Athanasius, come on man. I’m sensing so much negativity from you. You just gotta trust God and hear some encouraging words so you’ll be more encouraging and not quarrelsome.”?
I know what some might begin to say to me, and that is that while they don’t like this whole thing (who does?), God is in control, and as Christians, we need to be positive, not negative, and encouraging, not spreading controversy. Again my friends, the church exists in a world of darkness–our very presence is a controversy! As Jeff Durbin says, Christians should be in the business of stirring “Godly trouble” in the world. Christians in the past got in trouble for all sorts of things, yet nothing that violated God’s statutes. Why are so many Christians today not willing to do that?
God’s Sovereignty is No Reason to Turn an Eye to Oppression
Believing that God is in control is not a reason to neglect to be salt and light in the world. Calling out the misinformation and the government overreaches of our society is not having little faith–it is founded on a strong faith concerned with justice in this world. Believing God is sovereign means being concerned with justice. God’s sovereignty does not mean hard determinism and the fatalistic idea that, “Nothing I do matters, so eat drink and be merry”. The same Scriptures that declare Him to be sovereign never give man an excuse for his actions; the worst thing you can do with God’s sovereignty is use it as a reason to be apathetic.
Now once again, please don’t misunderstand me. Let’s say as a Christian, you decide to help your neighbors in some small ways. That’s wonderful! I think I could honestly do more of that! I love to see Christians being positive, never losing sight of the fact that God is in control. Nevertheless, you can do these things and still protest openly and loudly at the lying of our government, the manipulation of the media and the tyranny that is ravaging us.
I intend to get myself a mask, as my city has ordered us to wear them. This is unconstitutional, and violates the rights of the citizens. But I will wear one anyway. Why? Because while it violates my rights, it does not hinder my ability to be a Christian in this place. If they demanded I could not go and share Christ with people, then I must disobey, as the Christians did in the book of Acts. But I will wear my mask and nevertheless continue to protest wearing it, and the evils my government is committing.
You can do both, and I am calling all Christians to be as bold as those that came before us in the face of the world–to be the Athanasius’s of the world, against the world, and answer the call of the gospel to be truthful, to be the light, however much this dark world hates it.