I recently finished God and the Pandemic by N.T. Wright, with the tagline: “A Christian reflection on the Coronavirus and its aftermath.” I highly recommend it both for Christian and non-Christian audiences. As always, Wright is a wise and biblically-informed voice. In this case, he helpfully steers us away from some of the Christian responses to the coronavirus posing as “answers” — those who claim that COVID-19 is God’s special judgment on sin, for example. Not only do such “answers” smack of “special” knowledge given to the select few, they also completely miss the point.
For us to try and read God’s secret code off the pages of the newspapers may look clever. We may even get a reputation for spiritual insight — but actually, we are doing it because we have forgotten where the true key to understanding is now to be found.
Of course, this “true key to understanding” is found only in Jesus. Wright frames a thoroughly Christo-centric hermeneutic — not simply for the Bible, but (just as importantly) for our times. How fascinating that in Jesus, the ultimate “sign” of God’s Kingdom reign, proof that God is “in control,” we find find one “well acquainted with grief (Isa. 53).” Jesus is the lamenting Messiah. Is it any wonder, then, that He was compared to Jeremiah (Matt. 16:14)?
Following His lead, our discipleship requires that we see the present moment as a moment of lamentation. Rather than scornfully claiming to know “what God is doing in the pandemic,” it should be enough for us to grieve with the family who has lost a loved one; to stand with the caregiver unable to be with her grandmother anymore; to lament with our neighbor over his bankrupted business.
Wright says it well: “As Jesus had been to Israel, so his followers were to be to the world.”
This brief but profound work is a must read for those seeking their theological bearings in the midst of this pandemic.