Notes from NT Wright: The Christian Response to Coronavirus

Many of us read Genesis 1-2 as,
“That’s it! God made it and we spoiled it”.
But what if it’s actually the beginning of a project, the launching of something God wants to do? And he wants humans to be front and center in helping Him do it.
The trouble is, because of the fall and the forces of darkness (Gen 3) humans are out of sync so they are doing things which make the world out of sync.
With Jesus’ death something happens – the real power of the forces of darkness are defeated.
We know that the forces of darkness are anti-creation and designed to do what this virus is doing; to spoil, destroy and kill.
Forces of darkness
designed to do what the virus is doing –
to spoil, destroy and kill.
Jesus has defeated them on the cross and his resurrection is the beginning of new creation, of heaven and earth coming together.
We know the dark powers are trying to stop that even now, but new creation has begun and by the Spirit is continuing.
Jesus wept over the death of Lazarus even though He later raised Lazarus. The tragedy of the virus causes God to weep with us.
In tragic situations the primary response is grief and it’s a place that we should not be surprised to go. Just read Lamentations and Psalms.
How Does God Run the World?
The NT says if you want to know how God runs the world read the Gospels because Jesus shows what the kingdom of God looks like. It looks like Jesus weeping at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus. It looks like Jesus feasting with sinners. It looks like Jesus encouraging the woman at the well. It looks like Jesus celebrating a last meal with his friends and going off to the cross.
That’s how God runs the world! He comes in person to the place where the world is in pain and takes that pain upon himself.
In Romans 8 Paul talks of the creation groaning and the same thing happens.
Just as God comes in the person of Jesus, to take the pain of the world on himself, so God comes in the person of the Spirit to lament. It’s that sense of God by the Spirit being present as we lament.
Romans 8:22 Let me explain. We know that the entire creation is groaning together, and going through labour pains together, up until the present time. 23 Not only so: we too, we who have the first fruits of the spirit’s life within us, are groaning within ourselves, as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 We were saved, you see, in hope. But hope isn’t hope if you can see it! Who hopes for what they can see? 25 But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it eagerly—but also patiently.
That means we are caught up in the middle. We are puzzled and don’t get what’s going on. We don’t know how to pray but even the Spirit doesn’t have words to say the lament that has to be said. That’s exactly what Paul is saying in Romans 8:26-28
26 In the same way, too, the spirit comes alongside and helps us in our weakness. We don’t know what to pray for as we ought to; but that same spirit pleads on our behalf, with groanings too deep for words. 27 And the Searcher of Hearts knows what the spirit is thinking, because the spirit pleads for God’s people according to God’s will. 28 We know, in fact, that God works all things together for good to those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.
“Those who love Him” are followers who are in-dwelt by the Spirit. They feel the love of God welling up within them.
Think of the suffering and deaths caused by the coronavirus. If the Spirit is indwelling all of creation, and its groaning and grieving, we should not be content but should realize that our vocation is to be there, too. Everything seems to grow out of that lament.
John 20 is post-resurrection. Through her tears, Mary sees Jesus at the tomb and the disciples are in lockdown, in the upper room, because they are afraid.
Disciples are in lockdown
because they are afraid.
And in the middle of all that grief Jesus shows up. There is an interaction with Thomas, and in John 20:21 Jesus says, “As the father has sent me so I sent you.”
In your sphere of influence where would Jesus be going and what would He be doing during this virus? That is where we are called to be and do.

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