Wonder Where Christ Is
in Our COVID Crisis?
SEVEN WAYS TO GET AT A GOOD ANSWER
Many of us have asked this question more than once in these past months during the tragic outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic: Where is the Lord Jesus Christ in this historic, catastrophic moment?
In other words: How engaged is our Savior with this crisis? Or is he? If he is, then how should I expect him to respond? What should I be looking for?
What practical difference does it make to call Jesus the Lord of all as the disease rages across the land? How is his dominion relevant to the suffering and grieving going on all around us?
The fact is that our answers to such questions ultimately shape our vision of who he is—as well as our passion for him, our ability to trust in him, our desire to adore him, and the depth of our daily walk with him.
In this blog post, I’d like to share with you how I’ve been processing these questions over the past few weeks as, like you, I’ve had to try to make sense of this unprecedented pandemic.
Here are SEVEN WAYS to come at these questions that have helped me gain a fresh perspective on what the supremacy of Christ truly means—not only for a nation in the midst of a crisis but for each of our lives.
Where we come down on these few key issues can lead us into a more joyful embrace of Jesus’ lordship over everything—in spite of COVID-19. Maybe even because of COVID-19.
The right questions make all the difference!
Ephesians 4 tells us Jesus ascended to the throne of heaven precisely so that “he might fill the whole universe.” Right now, he is “filling” it—with his authority, his presence, his activity, and his supremacy.
But what does that look like, especially when millions are falling sick to a stealth virus that has already killed over 167,000 Americans and seriously damaged the health of tens of thousands more—with no end in sight?
Many of us find ourselves gripped by fear. As Jesuit leader James Martin put it recently in America magazine:
The sheer horror of this fast-moving infection is coupled with the almost physical shock from its sudden onset. As a priest, I have heard an avalanche of feelings the last month: panic, fear, anger, sadness, confusion and despair. Even the most religious people ask me: Why is this happening? Where is Jesus in all of this?
Father Martin goes on to answer his own question by saying:
The most honest answer is we don’t know. But we do know that in the final analysis, JESUS is the answer.
Essentially, this Christian leader calls on us to believe in who our Savior is even though we don’t fully grasp his ways at this hour.
We can be sure of this one thing: According to Scripture (cf. Hebrews 2 and 4), Jesus’ engagement at this moment with a nation of people, young and old, slammed by this deadly disease—with all the physical, emotional, and economic trauma it brings—is carried out with profound understanding and empathy for what we’re going through because he has faced it all in the days of his earthly ministry. Furthermore, he knows precisely what it will take to bring us out of this nightmare.
Thus, the best approach isn’t “WHERE is Jesus in our national tragedy?” The best approach is “HOW is Jesus involved in our national tragedy?”
More specifically, we should ask, “HOW is Jesus supreme as we see the future of our physical and economic health on the line? HOW does he manifest his reign in the midst of great fears? What should I be looking for?”
My last blog post asked a question that actually sets the stage for this discussion: “Is Jesus our PUPPET MASTER, or is he our CHESS MASTER?” If you did not have an opportunity to read it, you might want to start there before reading what I share below.
I take you further in this post than the last one. Here I offer a series of seven questions that all believers need to ask and answer in order to probe the “how” issue of Jesus’ reign.
Note: These are really seven different ways to raise the same issue and pursue the final answer.
Furthermore, I suggest you pause at the end of each section to ask yourself three additional questions that encourage a more personal application:
Remember: There are no easy resolutions, as Father Martin admits. But each of these questions definitely will serve to sharpen your view of Christ, your relationship to him, and your walk with him through the dark wilderness of COVID-19.
I present them in no order of importance.
(1) Do Jesus’ attributes shape and define how he reigns?
When it comes to Jesus’ attributes as God’s Son, the whole Church agrees that our King is both just and justifier, sovereign and servant, great and gracious, regal and respectful, omnipotent and omnibenevolent.
The question is this: How do these wonderfully diverse qualities shape his reign? Or do they?
In Islam, the Koran teaches that Allah’s attributes flow out of his sovereignty— they are defined and shaped by Allah’s absolute and total control of everything.
Should we interpret the reign of Christ in similar terms?
Or does Jesus’ sovereignty flow out of, is tempered by, and becomes responsive to his eternal, innate attributes—such as love and holiness, righteousness and mercy, steadfastness and “servant-heartedness,” compassion and justness?
In other words, do you see the exercise of his sovereignty defined and shaped by the nature of the person he is? Do you expect the qualities of his personhood to govern how he expresses his reign? Is this a time to rediscover more of who Jesus is as we watch and learn by how we see him at work during COVID-19?
(2) Did Jesus sovereignly prescribe this pandemic?
Or did he foresee it and sovereignly respond?
Based on Scripture, some Christians say Jesus’ kingship requires that he must foreknow everything that will happen before it comes to pass because all human decisions, actions, and experiences—including all pandemics—have been predetermined from eternity in the councils of Heaven.
Based on Scripture, however, other Christians conclude that it is more appropriate to say that as Lord of the universe, Christ accurately and perfectly anticipates all things that will happen—at every moment and in every place, including financial panics and global pandemics—before they take place.
Then, he sovereignly and effectively responds to each development as it unfolds, ensuring that the outcome of each act—including a pandemic—ultimately fulfills Heaven’s councils.
(3) Is Jesus in his reign reactive or proactive
in dealing with COVID-19?
Generally, Christians agree that, at the very least, nothing in this universe happens “by chance,” that is, outside of the complete awareness, sovereign permission, and full engagement (one way or another) of King Jesus.
Generally, Christians also declare that the Lord Jesus is an active ruler—that there is an orderly, purposeful advancing of his kingdom and his work of redemption, day in and day out.
Where Christians have become divided on this topic relates to the following two key questions:
(1) To what degree does Christ’s reign over us become proactive so that everything starts and ends by his initiative alone—including the emergence, the course, and the defeat of deadly diseases?
On the other hand, (2) to what degree is his reign more reactive? That is, at times he may choose to work with and through our decisions and actions, reacting to the path we have freely chosen and then adjusting his actions so that all things ultimately fit into where he was already headed, what he was already doing, and how he finally gains the greatest glory.
In terms of COVID, for example, considering the variety of national approaches to the pandemic around the world and the major contrasts in effectiveness from country to country, we wonder how the reigning Savior is involved in all of these developments.
Is he directly, actively responsible—is he proactive—for the spectrum of health outcomes worldwide? Or is he more involved reactively—by responding to, at times counteracting, human frailty and folly, to bring about God’s very best in the midst of the battle?
(4) Is God’s Son controlling the pandemic?
Or is he in control of the pandemic?
All Christians agree that in the thick of everything—including pandemics—our Lord Jesus remains in control. But does his being in control mean that at all times, in all places, with all peoples, he is actually controlling all that’s going on? What’s the difference? Words matter. Let’s look.
Certain “theological camps” of sincere believers teach that Christ’s headship means that at this very moment, he controls the universe, including every activity of every person as well as every movement and endeavor among earth’s peoples—all for the fulfillment of God’s plan for the ages.
Other “camps” of committed Jesus followers believe it is more appropriate, and more biblically accurate, to say Christ manages a divinely-orchestrated process—one that has been advancing throughout human history and among the nations, ensuring that ultimately everything will turn out right for the perfect accomplishment of God’s eternal purposes in and for his dear Son.
To ask it another way: As Jesus reigns “from sea to shining sea,” how much of what is happening with the raging virus in our land is he directing? On the other hand, how much of it is he simply permitting—allowing surges to come and go based on human decisions and actions?
Can Jesus be “omni-potent” without being “omni-controlling”? In other words, can Christ’s supremacy manifest itself as forceful and flexible—both at the same time?
(5) Is Jesus’ authority over our national health nightmare static or dynamic?
Does Scripture characterize Christ’s forcefully increasing dominion as basically static—that is, everything is predetermined all along the way, like a published novel where every detail of every page in the story has already been set in place?
Or does the Bible suggest that often his kingship is more dynamic—meaning that God leaves room for variations and surprises along the way as Jesus’ reign interacts with people’s free choices and actions, even while, at the same time, he brings God’s “Master Blueprint” for the ages to its completion, especially during a time of plague?
(6) What does the Bible mean when it teaches that Jesus has all power in heaven and earth?
Biblical Christians recognize our ascended and reigning Messiah is “all-powerful.” We also agree this means that, at the very least, he is the embodiment of divine omnipotence in the universe, whenever and however he chooses to exercise it.
Where the debate inside the Church arises is on this point: Does being all-powerful also mean he is constantly exercising all his power, in all places, with all peoples, and at every moment?
Or are there times when his reign could seem more passive—when he appears to stand back and release those who reject his presence, purposes, and promises to move toward the tragic outcome of their own decisions?
Are there times when he is not exercising his undiminished power, but allowing people to reap what they sow—that itself being a demonstration of dominion—even during a national health emergency?
(7) As COVID-19 steals thousands of lives, is Jesus truly actively challenging evil today?
We might ask this: How much evil in the world is ordained by the ruling Son, if any? How much evil simply is permitted for a brief season, for vital reasons, and with blessed outcomes when seen within the councils of the living God?
How much is evil and disease—including the spread of COVID—being contained by our Victor, though we don’t see most of his ways of going about doing this?
How much is he actively opposing the destructive forces in our world right now, on a variety of fronts—seen and unseen, viral and vicious?
In what ways does Scripture portray our Savior on the throne aggressively warring against every malevolent force, demonic and human, that is working to destroy his creation and oppose his kingdom purposes?
On the other hand, how much evil and suffering in the world currently is due to collateral damage resulting from an age-old cosmic battle in which our King is confronting a tenaciously perverse Predator, engaged in ongoing mortal combat (mortal for Satan, that is!)?
Once again, I encourage you to reflect on each of these seven sections you’ve just read in light of these three questions that follow, contemplating how your responses personally impact how you see, seek, and serve our Lord Jesus Christ.
Which outlooks on Jesus’ reign today
bring him the greatest glory?
Some Christians believe Christ is most fully exalted by his ability to enforce his will, uncontested—to impose his ways upon the course of everything and every life.
Other Christians believe his majesty is more wonderfully manifested by how he effectively redeems people rather than dominates them—by how he wholly reclaims, restores, renews, and redeploys saved sinners to give themselves freely to serve his kingdom agenda.
This perspective would apply not only in a season of deadly pandemics marching across the land but also in a season full of Christ Awakening movements saturating people with the power of the gospel (which many praying Christians believe is on the horizon for our nation).
Putting all these questions together, I think it makes the most sense to view and value the supremacy of Christ with these seven conclusions—each of which defines where Christ is in the COVID crisis and how his reign is displayed:
- Jesus’ eternal attributes define the distinctives of his reign—even during this pandemic.
- His power is absolute but exercised for the purpose of revealing the wonders of his heart and his kingdom purposes—even during this pandemic.
- He foreknows that what he has ordained will be accomplished one way or another, in total fulfillment of all of God’s purposes and promises—even during this pandemic.
- His reign is dynamic. He is creatively responding to all that is going on in our world to bring everything out exactly where he intends it to end—even during this pandemic.
- His reign is very proactive as he reacts to how things are developing in our nation, moving hearts and plans in his direction to ultimately accomplish what he has designed and what he deserves—even during this pandemic.
- He doesn’t need to be controlling—that is, micromanaging—every motive or movement of the human race because he never loses control of all that’s unfolding—even during this pandemic.
- In his supremacy, Jesus is totally engaged in his strategic battle with the forces of evil and darkness to bring all that oppose him to final defeat, dispelled once and for all—even during this pandemic.
So then, what about you? Where do you come out? Where and how do you see Christ at work during the COVID crisis? In what ways have you witnessed the majesty of his supremacy in your life during these challenging times for our nation?
Let me share with you more about the wondrous reign of Christ today—from the book of Revelation. Set aside 30 minutes, sit back and relax, and listen here to my CHRIST TODAY Podcast, episode #111, titled “Behold the Lamb of God!”
About the Author
Over the past 40 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ-awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com. Enjoy his regular CHRIST TODAY podcast.
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