Some weeks ago a churchman offered the view that the world’s current distresses, including the Coronavirus pandemic, the droughts, floods, fires, earthquakes and swarms of locusts, not to mention its wars and insurgencies, were the just judgment of God arising from the adoption by the west of homosexuality in a now institutional form and was virtually part of a new kind of establishment, writes Rev Sydney Maitland. This view was not welcomed by all and generated a lot of opposition, some of which may have been polite.
I cannot help finding that this outlook seems to regard one aspect of modern society, namely same-sex practice, as the focus and summary of all forms of disobedience against God. It is to mistake an outworking in society for the whole process of social development. Yet the present stage of social and cultural development is the outcome of the processes that enabled it to emerge. The results are founded on the underlying assumptions and thought processes. And for that reason I would want to start again.
In the Bible the first account of human disobedience against God is presented in the Garden of Eden. It is not as if Adam and Eve had no other food, so this is no basis for understanding why they took the forbidden fruit. It was rather, a direct and knowing rejection of God’s clear instruction, and to this extent it was a determined and conscious assertion of personal independence and sovereignty. It was to stand against God, and certainly to stand apart from God. Their relationship was now sundered, and to prevent Adam and Eve and their descendants from dwelling in permanent and eternal alienation they were barred from access to the Tree of Life. So Eden was closed – for their protection as much as anything else.
In this sense the only possible way back into fellowship with God would be to receive the means that God has appointed. ‘For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Corinthians 15: 22). I know of none other, and this is an act initiated by God and not a contrivance of the capitalist west.
The next set of commands I would point to is the 10 Commandments, received by Moses hundreds of years after Abraham had found favour with God through his faith rather than obedience to any particular kind of law. In this sense God was already initiating a new kind of relationship with humanity. But in the ten commandments the first four are about our relationship with God and this primacy of this relationship above all others. Yet even here our modern society has succeeded only in driving a fleet of juggernauts through them. The Lord is certainly displaced by other priorities and interests and contrivances, the name of God is used to justify any and all kinds of human agenda, and the Sabbath (or Sunday, as appropriate) is honoured in the breach. And without this underpinning then the last six commandments also progressively lose their authority.
One important aspect of the 10 Commandments is that they were given to a whole people and not just those who were religiously inclined. They were the civil foundation of the people of Israel, just as Passover was to be their religious foundation.
Looking at the New Testament, the temptations of Jesus were all intended to deflect Him from His road to the Cross and there were three particularly beguiling appeals. Jesus resisted them – but what about the rest of us? The use of food, drink, shelter and clothing as substitutes for the eternal life that He opens for us? The use of political power and its structures of coercion and control as substitutes for personal renewal and forgiveness, and certainly for personal relationships, first with God and then with one another? The use of the dramatic and entertaining as distractions from the reality of the personal issues of rebellion and responsibility in the sight of God? I would suggest that what Jesus resisted – and resisted by standing on scripture – has been enthusiastically embraced and endorsed by a culture that rejects personal faith and salvation in Jesus Christ and which despises those that receive it and seek to live it. Certainly those who seek to communicate it.
All of these aspects of the personal and social rebellion against God are more than enough for us to see in the disasters of the world and the frailty of the human response to them as a form of judgement. But they are all underpinned by a determined personal and social refusal to receive the words and salvation of Jesus Christ. Some, especially totalitarian regimes, may force or try to force us to pursue this rebellion and those who reject this atheistic or Anti-Christian agenda are opposed violently and viciously. The sin of determined and sustained unbelief and the rejection of relationship with God as He gives it to us in Jesus Christ is also a judgment that we inflict on ourselves. To make our present troubles the sole fault of sexual deviance is to find in those touched by such things a scapegoat for the sins of all. This has been done before – with terrible results. And it does not let the rest of us off the hook.
I am not sure it after all this I can wish you every blessing. I also am under the same rebuke. But I commend these thoughts to you.