The Whole Earth Groans: A Year of Seismic Events and Our Response
Since January, Americans have been dealing with four seismic events that echo some of the gravest crises in our history. From impeachment (1974), to a global pandemic (1918), to an economic crisis (1929, 2008), to a racial crisis (1968, 1992), we are facing systemic challenges that are embroiling our nation.
However, the bad news they share leads to the good news that shows us the way forward.
When the first humans fell, creation fell with them (Genesis 3:16–19). As a result, “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:22 NKJV). This observation leads to three relevant facts today.
The Natural World is Fallen, Which Explains COVID-19 and Other Disasters
As of this writing, COVID-19 has infected more than 6.3 million people and caused more than 380,000 deaths. According to the Congressional Budget Office, the pandemic will cost the US economy nearly $8 trillion over the next decade.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. The Congressional Budget Office estimates annual economic losses from such storms at $54 billion.
Researchers believe that drought conditions experienced in the Western US since 2000 are part of a megadrought equivalent to the worst our continent has experienced in more than 1,200 years. India is grappling with the worst locust storm the country has encountered in nearly 30 years.
In response, we can pray to the Lord of nature for his miraculous intervention (cf. Matthew 8:23–27) and healing (cf. Matthew 4:24) while practicing prevention (Proverbs 22:3) and responding medically (cf. Isaiah 38:21; 1 Timothy 5:23).
But we should not be surprised when diseases and disasters strike.
Human Beings are Fallen, Which Explains Racism and Other Sins
The first murder (Genesis 4:8) came only one chapter after the first sin (Genesis 3:6). The sin of racism is present in Scripture from Miriam (Numbers 12:1) to the Jewish rejection of Samaritans (John 4:9) and Gentiles (cf. Matthew 15:23).
In his affair with Bathsheba, King David broke the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth commandments (Exodus 20:12–17). Like Israel’s most famous king, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
In response, we can ask God to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9), separate them from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12), bury them in “the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19) and “remember [our] sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). We can forgive others (Matthew 18:15) and seek their forgiveness (Matthew 5:23–24). And we can pray for the Spirit to manifest his “fruit” in our lives and relationships (Galatians 5:22–23) as he makes us more like Jesus (Romans 8:29).
But we should not be surprised when sinners sin.
This World is Passing Away, Which Explains Our Call in the Present and Hope for the Future
One day, there will be “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1). In the meantime, we are responsible to develop and protect God’s creation (Genesis 2:15) and advance his kingdom in our world (Matthew 6:33).
We are called to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), persuading everyone we can to “be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). And we are to make “the best use of time” (Ephesians 5:16), knowing that each day is one day closer to eternity.
But we should not be surprised when God comes to us (John 14:3) or we go to him (Philippians 1:21).
What if it were today?
Jim Denison is Resident Scholar for Ethics with Baylor Scott & White Health and the founder of Denison Forum, with a reach of 1.7 million.