What is the church’s message during this time of national difficulty? For weeks, America’s elected officials have worked overtime to propagate a message of social distancing and increased hygiene. What about the church? Are God’s people working overtime to propagate a particular message to an infected nation filled with fear and anxiety?
Following President Trump’s address to the nation on March 11, governors across the nation issued guidelines recommending social distancing and limitations on crowd sizes. Following these recommendations, churches across the nation closed their doors and entered what, for many, was a brave new world of digital live streaming. Pastors endeavored to console and encourage their congregations, and they exhorted their people to practice good hygiene and to abide by the government’s protective recommendations.
The rapid innovation of many churches in converting their Sunday services to digital live streams was impressive. The willingness of so many churches to take extreme measures to care for the health and safety of others was fantastic. And the encouragement and exhortation of pastors throughout America was certainly merited and much appreciated. But was something missing on Sunday March 15? Where was the call to personal and national repentance amidst the prayers, Scripture readings, worship songs, and sermons?
Sometimes God allows difficulty to come upon a nation as a means of alerting the people to the destructive nature of their rebellion. In the book of Amos, we read about God’s corrective judgment when He lifted His hand of blessing and protection to rouse a spirit of repentance within the nation of Israel. God judged the people by selectively sending rain to some cities and not to others, by a lack of food and water, by poor harvests, by blight and mildew, by locusts, by military attacks, and by disease. Nevertheless, the people refused to repent (Amos 4:6–11). It is likely that the people missed God’s fingerprints across these judgments because they believed them to simply be natural events.
Could it be that, like Israel, we in America are dismissing as natural events God’s efforts to arouse us from our spiritual slumber? Could it be that God has permitted the coronavirus to permeate our borders as a means of compelling us to look beyond our daily routine and to begin contemplating matters of life and death, as well as the condition of our relationship with our Creator?
Hundreds of years before Amos, God told Israel’s king that the day would come when God would send drought, locusts, and disease upon the land to elicit a spirit of repentance, “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:13–14).
God’s heart has not changed. His desire is to bless those who obey Him, but He is willing to permit hardship to come upon those who rebel (Deut. 11:26–28). Make no mistake about it; America is a nation in rebellion to God’s moral commands. Realizing this, we would be foolish to not at least consider the possibility that God is permitting disease to disrupt our national way of life in an effort to soften our hearts to eternal issues. Of course, we are not the only country to be experiencing this crisis, but it seems that God sometimes uses widespread disease to reach beyond individuals and communities, instead alerting an entire nation—or nations—to their rebellion.
Second Chronicles provides God’s people with an action plan for aligning our hearts with the heart of God in times of crisis. First, we must examine our own hearts and repent of any sin we may be harboring. Then we should assess our national culture with an intent of separating ourselves from any cultural mindset that contravenes God’s moral commands. Having done this, each and every Christian should fall to their knees in intercession for our nation. We should be like Daniel who prayed for mercy on behalf of his people (Dan. 9:3–19). Implicit in this is that we also challenge those around us to follow these steps of evaluation and repentance.
Without repentance, social distancing and increased hygiene will fail to accomplish God’s purposes in our nation. Perhaps they will succeed in containing the virus or mitigating its effects, but we will remain spiritually sick as a nation with an ailment that may bring far greater difficulties in the days to come. This is what the nation of Israel experienced when they refused to repent of their sins in Amos. God’s corrective judgment was replaced with a severe judgment designed to shake the nation at a fundamental level in order to compel the people to let go of their sinful habits. In the case of Israel, this involved being dragged by fishhooks into exile by an invading nation (Amos 4:2).
Should there be a call to repentance among God’s people as a response to this pandemic? Nowhere will we find God exhorting His people to wash their hands and practice social distancing. Why then is this message almost uniformly being preached among God’s churches, while God’s clear message of repentance can scarcely be found? God is clear. He says that when He sends disease, His people’s first reaction should be to repent. Only then will the great Physician truly heal the nation (2 Chron. 7:13–14).
Let’s take the next step!
In the spirit of repentance and humbly seeking the Lord’s favor, Christian Union is calling upon believers across America to join together in 40 days of intentional prayer and fasting, starting today (March 18). For more information, and to sign up for a daily e-mail to help on this journey, visit DayAndNight.org.
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Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.