The GOOD NEWS for such a time as COVID-19
April 27, 2020 | Michael Foster
Distance is an unnerving new normal for those designed for closeness. We were meant for social and spiritual intimacy from the beginning. Adam and Eve, created in the image of God, enjoyed a perfectly healthy, holy, and warm relationship with God and each other. And for their own good, God set a boundary. But they ate anyway from the forbidden tree, giving in to Satan’s temptation, sinning against God, and opening the gates of death. Immediately, their relationship with God transformed from one of closeness and comfort to distance and distrust. They hid themselves from God, and when God found them, He banished them from His presence – even while promising to bring salvation through one of their descendants.[i]
Not only was the sin of Adam and Eve fatal, it was and still is entirely contagious. Their sin became like a virus that has spread to every person born since.[ii] “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”[iii] The sin virus does not discriminate. It touches us all regardless of our physical or social condition. And the fatality rate of those with the sin virus is still 100 percent. Tragically, 100 out of every 100 people with this virus still die.[iv] Every funeral on earth is evidence of our sinful condition. And, when we’re honest, we can sense a real separation from God. We wonder why bad things happen, why people hate, and where God is. We understandably feel distant from God and true goodness.
Sensing real illness in our world and in ourselves, we do what infected people do – we try to cope with symptoms as best as we can while hoping for a remedy. Some days the symptoms are manageable, and we can even feel good. Nature can be beautiful, bodies can be strong, and people can be wonderful. But the virus has a way of surfacing and exposing our weakness. Nature brings disasters, bodies fall apart, and people hurt each other. Even our hearts, capable of so much love, trend more than we like to admit toward selfishness and bitterness. Our best efforts in coping with symptoms leave us hoping even more desperately for a solution.
There is no shortage of vaccines being tested. Many of them are said to be quite promising. Religion, for instance, has long been touted as an answer. Its basic formula is that your good works must outweigh your bad. Morality is a good mask for mortality, but it is no medicine. Even the cleanest hands are dirty to a holy God.[v] Mysticism masquerades in this category as well. It promises protection for any who speak the magic words, pray the prescribed prayers, or engage in the chosen experience, all while ignoring the root of the infection. Religion solaces but cannot sanitize hearts that carry the virus. The salvation we need must come through faith, not works, however secure or spiritual such works may feel.[vi]
Another vaccine in testing is self-acceptance. We are taught to love ourselves despite our condition, and we can. We may even convince ourselves to feel quite a bit better about ourselves. We strive in ways not unadmirable to become the best version of ourselves. But the finest person is still terminally infected. That person can love himself (and even others) but has no power to save himself (or others) from an invisible, inevitable virus. Love prevents no overboard soul from drowning at sea unless it comes with a rope, or a raft, or some other resource for rescue. The salvation we need must come from outside of ourselves, from someone with both affection and ability.
We therefore tend to pay attention when cultural gods line up to deliver us. Education promises to improve our condition yet often only makes us more aware of the extent of the problem. Science, specifically, has proven capable of protecting and prolonging our health, but to what ultimate end? It has not yet reversed the curse of the sin or found a portal to eternal paradise. Few would say they wish to entrust their souls to Government, but we are nonetheless too easily enticed to hope in a particular party or political leader to fix our world. Governments can and should serve our concerns, but translating the spiritual state of the governed from darkness to light is beyond the capacity of even the most noble earthly kingdom. Materialism – often wed with success or status – initially attracts as a path out of instability and irrelevance. But stable and significant people are no more immune to the sin virus than the rest of the herd. These and other cultural gods compete relentlessly for our devotion, but all are eventually exposed for their inadequacies by the novel virus and its uncompromising effects.
A strange but somehow still popular kind of vaccine is to claim there is no real virus at all. It is convenient, for sure – along with totally deceptive and destructive – to propagate conspiracy theories about the sin virus and even God himself. After all, if God is a mirage fabricated by desperate humans in need of a crutch or control, then we are not responsible for ourselves or others and can go on living as we choose. But, death itself has been corroborated, and its uncomfortable proximity should keep us accountable for seeking actual antidotes rather than spinning foolish theories.
In the end, all our endeavors for a cure accomplish little more than false hope. At best, the measures we employ are like extensive palliative care, helping to alleviate symptoms in the face of imminent demise. At worst, they further wound us and speed our dying process. And, always, they blind us to the good news.
The good news is that there is, in fact, a remedy for this virus! It has been on the market for centuries and has been effective for people from every nation and generation. The vaccine is called the “gospel,” which means “good news.” According to the gospel, although we are infected and deserve unmitigated judgment from God, God loves us too much to leave us in our distant, vulnerable condition. In that uncontainable love, God sent His only son, Jesus, into our containment to rescue us, knowing he would be fully exposed to the virus.[vii] Conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit, Jesus was fully God and fully man. As man, He was tested in every way like we are, but He resisted all temptation to live the righteous life we never could, walking in perfect love and obedience.[viii] As God, He demonstrated power over the sin virus and its deadly effects as he constantly forgave sin, healed the sick, and raised the dead.
Although Jesus longed to be received, those He loved rejected Him, not recognizing their personal need for Him.[ix] Yet even their rejection was part of God’s rescue plan, for Jesus was crucified by them in our place, sacrificing his righteous life as a substitute for our sinful one, so that we could be with God.[x] The penalty for sin was poured out on Jesus once and for all so that we would never have to endure the wrath of God. Having finished the work required for our rescue, Jesus rose again from the dead three days later to prove He is God and has power over the sin virus, death, and Satan himself. Jesus, with his righteousness and life, offers us a vaccine!
The good news only gets better, because everyone with the virus unconditionally qualifies for this vaccine. No matter your preexisting, present, or future conditions or choices, the vaccine is offered to you out of love today. The only requirement is that you receive it: “to all who receive Jesus, to those who believe in His name, He gives the right to become children of God.”[xi] We receive the vaccine as a gift from God, simply letting go of whatever else we are trusting in for deliverance and placing our faith in Jesus for forgiveness of our sins. Instantly, then, our closeness with God is restored and the lethal power of the sin virus is nullified. We can forever be assured of eternal life in a heaven much like the original Eden, where Adam and Eve experienced perfect intimacy with God and each other.
The gospel means that sin is forgiven, death is defeated, and distance is forever distant. But these glorious realities are only available for those who come to Christ for their cure. Jesus made it clear there is no other way when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[xii] And the way Jesus has made is inclusively open to any soul who calls upon Him in faith.[xiii]
Dear friend, if we have learned anything in this season, it’s that we do not know what tomorrow will bring. Why not today, in your heart, call on Jesus to save you from your sin? He has made his choice to rescue you. Make your choice to receive Him. And enjoy the spiritual health that comes with his forgiveness, his closeness, and his everlasting life.
[i] Genesis 3:15
[ii] Romans 5:12
[iii] Romans 3:23
[iv] Romans 6:23
[v] Isaiah 64:6
[vi] Ephesians 2:8-9
[vii] John 3:16; Romans 5:8
[viii] Hebrews 4:15
[ix] John 1:11
[x] 1 Peter 3:18
[xi] John 1:12
[xii] John 14:6
[xiii] Romans 10:13