The Cross and the Pandemic by Greg Albrecht
The Cross of Christ in the Midst of This Pandemic.
During all the depressing news of these dark days of the COVID-19 pandemic, spirits were lifted and hope soared at the sight of USNS Comfort sailing into New York and USNS Mercy arriving in Los Angeles. There are no denominational or ministry logos adorning these ships – just a red cross. No dogma, no “look at us” – just a look-to-Him Cross. Just Comfort and Mercy.
Here is the gospel – here is the message of the Cross of Christ. Comfort and Mercy. Sadly, the only message we hear from many in Christendom is a dogmatic condemnation that COVID-19 is a final warning from God, telling us to repent… or else.
In the midst of confusion, in the midst of disarray, in the midst of fear, in the midst of families facing health and financial hardship, the best the religious industrial complex can deliver is condemnation and more fear? As our already fragmented society is ripped apart at the seams, as people find themselves and their employment on lists pronouncing them “non-essential” – the best religion can deliver is “repent or else?”
As we “separate” and “socially distance” ourselves – as celebrations of life of a recently deceased loved one, weddings, graduations, proms, travel and celebrations of all kinds are “cancelled” where are those who will “comfort, comfort my people” (Isaiah 40:1)?
Here’s what the Cross of Christ says to you in the midst of this pandemic:
1) You are “essential” to God. Everyone is essential to God. There are no non-essentials in God’s kingdom and his economy.
2) You are not “separated” from God unless you choose to be. God doesn’t maintain a safe “social distance” from us – he comes near, up close and personal. God’s outstretched arms are still open to you and me – he has not closed the door of his house nor is there a long wait before you will be allowed entrance. God will not withhold his loving embrace for fear you will transmit a virus to him.
3) You are not now, nor will you ever be, “cancelled.” Your sins have been cancelled. Your guilt and shame have been cancelled. (Colossians 2:13-15). God has not been cancelled by this pandemic neither is he threatening to cancel his love for you.
Plagues, pestilence, disease epidemics and famine are recurring themes in the history recounted in the Bible.
· The pages of the Bible are filled with human cruelty, hatred and despicable evils of every kind.
· The pages of the Bible are also filled with stories, accounts and assurances of God’s faithfulness in times of adversity.
· The pages of the Bible tell us about human suffering and God’s faithfulness.
· The pages of the Bible promise that the Light will win against the darkness.
During this COVID-19 pandemic God is right where he always is – in Christ he is with us and for us. He suffers with us. He is cuddled next to us. He is one of us. He is faithful. He will never leave nor forsake us. During this COVID-19 pandemic God shows up.
God showed up during the suffering of Job. He wasn’t far away somewhere, oblivious of Job’s predicament. He showed up. God is present. He was with Job.
God showed up when he came in the person of Jesus – Immanuel, God with us. Where is God during this COVID-19 pandemic? He doesn’t threaten us nor is he far away. He suffers with us. Jesus doesn’t need to wear gloves or a mask. He is there, kneeling down, washing our feet – sanitizing and healing us. He is there, on his Cross, between two thieves.
COVID-19 has changed and altered so many things about life and how we live it. But here’s the thing: The centrality of the Cross of Christ changes EVERYTHING. The Cross is like throwing a rock into a pond – the impact of the rock causes ripples to flow from the point of impact to the edges of the pond – to the fringes of reality and to the corners of the universe.
The coronavirus is not judgment or condemnation. It is not a penalty directly from God because he is particularly incensed with our sins and lack of virtue. Our sins have been taken care of, once for all (Hebrews 9:26)
The grace of God is alive and well in this world. God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is at work, in and through so many expressions of faith, solidarity, support and service – all around this world. The goodness, kindness, compassion, grace and mercy of God is seen in and through so many Christ-like responses in and through the lives of people all over this world. Mercy and Compassion are docked right next to you, in the person of Jesus Christ.
The cross of Christ is the singular moment when all past, present and future redemption, salvation and reconciliation for all humanity is accomplished. On the one hand the Cross of Christ is the most atrocious abomination ever – it is the ignominious, outrageous and failed human attempt to kill God! But, while the Cross of Christ was the worst that humanity can do to God, the Cross is the absolute best God does for us.
The Cross is the forever sign of God’s willingness, in Christ, to make himself vulnerable to disease – accidents – life spans and mortality. God in Christ comes near. God in Christ dies with and for us all.
The Cross of Christ enables you and me to die to ourselves and his resurrection enables us to welcome our risen Lord to live in us and through us for all eternity. As Christ-followers we center our faith in and on the Cross of Christ and his glorious resurrection. By the grace of God, through our risen Lord, we know how to die and how to live, and we are affirmed and empowered to love others with the same love we ourselves have received.
Say it with me – He is risen! He is risen indeed!