Study Guide: Are We Being Punished?

Sunday March 29, 2020 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In the midst of great suffering and ugliness, there is also goodness breaking through. We are seeing this in the midst of this unusual time and it points us to how God works to bring his cross-like love in the middle of horrible circumstances. This teaches us that God is not the cause of this pandemic, but is the one who will win in the end.

Extended Summary:

The pandemic is bringing out the best and the worst at the same time. Yes, we are experiencing horrible circumstances, but there is also a sense of goodness that is breaking forth in the midst of the darkness. While there is a lot of suffering and fear, light is shining through it.

In Romans 8, Paul tells us that there is something wrong with creation, naming the reality of the sufferings of this present age, that the creation groans and waits for the freedom and redemption that only God can bring. There is something wrong with creation, while at the same time there is something good being born. Alongside this, the Colossians passage shows us that all things in earth are reconciled through the cross. These two passages name the goodness and the evil that are at work in the midst of creation.

Many today are assuming that the pandemic is the judgment of God. They assume this because they believe that creation is the way that God created it to be, while humans are messed up. The stage of creation is fine, but the players on the stage are sinful. Therefore, God is using creation to “zap” us. This has been a common belief throughout history.

The cross teaches us that God does not judge us by zapping people. Instead the cross teaches us that God judges by turning people over to their choices. He allows people to reap the consequences of the path that they have taken by allowing them to do what they want to do. The God revealed through Jesus on the cross is not a pagan deity who uses creation to inflict violence upon people.

God zaps people not with diseases, but with the cure. The enemy, Satan, is the source of disease. This is consistently found in the New Testament. In Acts 10:38, we learn that diseases are of “Satan’s power.” Creation as we experience it is not nature as God created it because it has been inflicted by estrangement from God. Everything is in need of reconciliation.

The human rebellion (Genesis 3) is a footnote of the rebellion of the principalities and powers who stood against God resulting in the affliction of the entire cosmos. The early Church Fathers taught that God entrusted angelic beings with the stewardship of creation, but because of the rebellion all that was under their authority was impacted. From this we can draw a few helpful conclusions for our time;

  1. God is not to blame. The pandemic is not from God but is something that the enemy has done.
  2. God will win in the end. The sufferings of this present age are incomparably small when set against the glory that is to come. This is our hope.
  3. God’s Spirit is at work in the whole cosmos to reconcile all things, in the midst of the ugliness to bring about God’s goodness. Our job is to align ourselves with what God is doing.

The church does not have a control over what God is doing because the Spirit’s work is much larger than what the church is doing. However, the church is called to be the people who can see and participate in the Spirit’s work. The church is set apart because we know what is going on.

Reflection Questions: