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Our pandemic view may be all wrong, says N.T. Wright

Over the last year, I have wrestled and struggled with the appropriate response to the challenges of the day. I have prayed and lamented, been angry, felt powerless and spent time in the Psalms and Lamentations.

I have struggled with the impact of the pandemic on me, on our country, on our church and on my rights as an American.

Many have expressed opinions in the news, on social media, in our churches and in church writings as to how Christians should respond. Some are based in Scripture, others not so much.

Then came N.T. Wright’s book God and the Pandemic: A Christian Reflection on the Coronavirus and its Aftermath.”

The book is just five short chapters — with rather vague titles. However, each one is filled with messages of comfort, hope and peace. Each one also is a call to action for followers of Jesus.

As Wright, a renowned theologian and scholar whose most recent works include “Paul: A Biography,” leads us through a careful reading of God in the Old Testament, I am reminded that God’s creation was good but that a “dark power … from the start has tried to destroy God’s good handiwork.”

Wright reminds readers of the struggle Job faced that he could not understand — the same dark power that we too cannot understand but will face. 

Wright says, “We are simply to know that when we are caught up in awful circumstances, apparent gross injustices, terrible plagues … at those points we are to lament, we are to complain, we are to state the case, and leave it with God. God himself declares at the end that Job has told the truth (42:8). He has clung onto the fact that God is just, even though his misery seems to deny it.”

In chapter 3, he carefully leads me back to Jesus and his followers in the New Testament and their response to tragedy, pain and suffering —  reminding us that when Jesus’ followers faced despair at the death of Lazarus, Jesus wept with them.

It is, rather, about me putting my faith in the sovereignty of God and accepting, as Jonah did, that God is God and I am not.

Wright writes, “When (Jesus) does talk of wars, famines, earthquakes and the like he doesn’t say, ‘So when these things happen you must think carefully about what you and your society should be repenting of.’ He says ‘Don’t be disturbed; the end is not yet.’ Matthew 24:6 … In other words, if Jesus’ followers are waiting for special events to nudge them into looking for Jesus’ kingdom on earth as in heaven, or to tell them to repent when they were drifting into careless sin, then they’ve gone to sleep on the job.”

In light of these ideas, I — and dare I say others — have had it all wrong. It’s not about me, it’s not about power, it’s not about my rights or politics, it’s not about who sinned or the end of time. 

It is, rather, about me putting my faith in the sovereignty of God and accepting, as Jonah did, that God is God and I am not.  

For me, as a Christian, it is about being shaped in the image of God, as a servant led by the Spirit of God.  

My reading and study of this little book (only 87 pages) renews my spirit and restores my soul. It has reminded me of the peace that comes through a relationship with the triune God of the Bible.

PATTI LEHMAN is a retired public school administrator. She and her husband, Dave, worship with the Blue Starr Church of Christ in Claremore, Okla. They have three children and six grandchildren. 

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Filed under: Church of Christ Coronavirus COVID-19 covid19 God and the Pandemic N.T. Wright Opinion Reviews Top Stories

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