You may have heard someone say, or even thought it yourself, that this pandemic we are going through is God’s punishment against the wicked. We heard the same thing during Hurricane Katrina, that it was God’s punishment against New Orleans, and the same things were said about the AIDS virus, that it was a punishment against homosexuals.
As we touched on last week, a more likely explanation to those events, and ones similar to them, is the fact that we live in a sinful and fallen world. The disobedience of Adam and Eve allowed sin into God’s perfection, and much like a virus it spread to corrupt all corners of humanity. Ephesians 6:12 tells us we live in a “present darkness,” while Colossians 1:13 calls this world a “domain of darkness.” Often times, bad things happen to people because we live in a broken creation, which is so corrupt that it is actually passing away before our eyes (1 Corinthians 7:31).
But this does not mean that God does not or will not punish people for their disobedience. God in His perfection and holiness cannot abide sin in any form and He will punish people for it. In an eternal sense, unrepentant sin and lack of faith results in condemnation and death forever in hell. Those who refuse the free gift of salvation in Jesus and do not come to Him in repentance will die in their sins and be separated from God forever. This is the one sin God cannot forgive, “blaspheming against the Holy Spirit,” or refusing to come to God in faith (Mark 3:29).
In an earthly, here-and-now sense, God does punish people for their disobedience and sinfulness. This is quite common in the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments. In Genesis 19, God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness. The illegitimate child of David and Bathsheba died shortly after birth. Some three hundred years after David, the entire nation of Israel had become so evil that it was conquered by an invading army, destroyed, and most of its inhabitants taken to live in captivity. There are just as many examples of God’s punishment in the New Testament (for example, the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11).
God does these things not just because He is holy and righteous, but also because He loves us. That seems hard to believe sometimes, considering the suffering people go through, but God often does bring discipline and punishment out of love. The Bible often makes the comparison of our relationship with God to that of a parent and child. Believers in Christ are called God’s children (1 John 3:1), and any parent can tell you that sometimes kids need discipline. Correcting a child with loving discipline helps him to learn the difference between right and wrong and come to respect authority. Not doing this can result in difficult, lazy or entitled children (Proverbs 13:24).
In the same way, God often needs to discipline us as His children, and He does so out of love. That’s why we read in Hebrews 12:7, 10, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? [Our earthly parents] disciplined us for a little while as they thought best, but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness.”
Some suffering is God’s way of getting our attention, disciplining us in love, and bringing us back to Him. Of course, this does not apply to all suffering we go through, and we’ll talk more about that next week.
If you have any questions or comments, feel free to let me know.
Pastor Brad Schultz, Zion Evangelical Church, firstname.lastname@example.org