Up & Coming Weekly

May 12, 2020

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 6 of 28

6 UCW MAY 13-19, 2020 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM OPINION COVID-19: Where is God? by KARL MERRITT Column Gist: In the midst of this CO- VID-19 pandemic, many people are asking if it was caused by God. is column addresses that question. As people ponder how God might be involved with the COVID-19 pandemic, the normal response is, "I don't see how a loving God would cause an event such as this." e implication is that God's love does not allow him to, for any reason, bring hardship upon people of Earth … to punish. Even though I do not claim that COVID-19 is God's punishment on America, my question would be: How can a loving God not punish America? I think Rev. Billy Graham went to the heart of the matter in a statement where he referred to an assessment made by his wife, Ruth. is from an article in 2012 by Rev. Graham titled, "Billy Graham: 'My Heart Aches for America.'" "Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she fin- ished a section describing the terrible down- ward spiral of our nation's moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by ex- claiming, 'If God doesn't punish America, he'll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.'" e 19th chapter of Genesis records God's punish- ment of Sodom and Gomorrah. Scholars differ on the nature of the sin that caused God's destruction of these cities. Some say it was because of rampant ho- mosexual activity. Others point to a lack of hospital- ity. Discussion of these differing schools of thought may be reviewed at www.britannica.com. No matter what the causal sin was, these people were horren- dously sinful. at is the level of sinfulness that has taken up residence in America. Consequently, Ruth Graham has my full agreement — America is due for God's overwhelming punishment. Whether COVID-19 is our punishment, I do not know. However, every American should seriously consider that possibility and respond accordingly. What follows offers some thoughts on how we might go about assessing the plausibility of this plague being God's punishment of America. Granted, the whole world is adversely impacted by this frightful pandemic. However, this did not mandate that it come to America, especially with the tremendous devastation that we are experiencing. By way of assessing, start with a definition of love and how true love looks in action. is definition of love from "36 Definitions of Love, According to Urban Dictionary" by Marisa Donnelly. "e act of caring and giving to someone else … having someone's best interest and well-being as a priority in your life." is definition "hits the mark" because it requires taking actions that sometimes are necessary for the correction of those who are loved. In the "I can't believe a loving God would do this" as- sessment of our difficult experiences, love is viewed as void of punishment or correction. e following segments, from an article by Monsi- gnor Charles Pope titled, "Pondering Punishment in the Light of God's Love," makes crystal clear the great fallacy in how God's love is generally viewed: "We have become rather 'soft' in modern times (at least in the Western World). We have been taught in the 'God is Love' school, which is not wrong but has often understood that love in sentimental and simplistic ways. Modern notions of love are usu- ally soft, permissive and nondirective. Love is often thought to be exclusively 'supportive' and 'affirming.' e understanding that love could or should include setting limits, correction, admonishments or punishments is usually downplayed if not explicitly rejected as pertaining to love. "God too has largely been relegated to being es- sentially an affirmer. He is the one who 'understands.'" Beyond recognizing the correction, the punish- ment, component of God's love, our assessment of God's possible role in COVID-19, as it relates to America, requires understanding that God deals heavily in quid pro quos. A Google search yields this definition: "Quid pro quo refers to the giving of one valuable thing for another." e examples from scripture are almost limitless. For instance, there is this often quoted verse from 2 Chronicles 7:14 (KJV): "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." God does not say that he will, without any ac- tion on the part of the people, heal their land. He lays out what they must do. God goes even further and details for Solomon, the king, what he will do if Solomon does not live by God's statutes. is from the Life Application Bible note on 2 Chronicles 7:17-22: "God plainly set forth certain conditions for Solo- mon to meet if he wanted the kingdom to continue. If Solomon followed God, he and his descendants would prosper. If Solomon did not, he and the nation would be destroyed. In Deuteronomy 27 and 28, these conditions were outlined before all the people." Over time, Solomon turned from God, and God did what he promised. Solomon's descendants, and all of Israel, suffered tremendously. God's use of quid pro quos even shows up in the loving and, very likely, most quoted verse in scripture, John 3:16 (NIV): "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." God offers eternal life, but receiving it requires that a person believes in Jesus. e experience of Solomon not only il- lustrates God's use of the quid pro quo; it also makes clear that God punishes disobedience. An even more telling instance of God's love resulting in punishment shows through in his sending of Israel into the wilderness for 40 years. e following, from an article by David Treybig titled, "Why Did God Choose Israel?" sets important context for them being sent into the wilderness: "God wanted Israel to be a model nation, a group of people through whom other peoples could learn vitally important lessons. God wanted Israel to be 'a kingdom of priests and a holy nation' (Exodus 19:6). Other nations would see that when the Israelites obeyed God, they were blessed (verse 5), and when they disobeyed God, they would be punished (Deuteronomy 28)." God loved Israel and had a high calling for the nation; however, when the people rebelled and chose not to follow God's direction and enter the land he had promised, God sent them into the wilderness for 40 years. God punished people he loved dearly. In deciding what role, if any, God might be playing in COVID-19's invasion of America, we must recog- nize that God must sometimes punish us because he loves us and must substantially employ the quid pro quo and treat us in the same way that he has treated individuals and nations across the ages. When we examine the behavior of American so- ciety, the picture is clear. As a nation, in the overall, we blatantly reject the statutes, the way, of God. We have declared abortion a woman's right. We decided the homosexual lifestyle acceptable and protected by law — no matter what scripture says, a person gets to choose their gender regardless of gender at birth. Sex before marriage is routinely accepted. Christians are under attack because of our faith. Even further, government policies and programs support or encourage ungodly conduct. For instance, instead of taking actions that would discourage premarital sex, American governments provide free condoms to citizens. When that action fails and chil- dren result whose parent(s) cannot afford to finan- cially support them, governments provide financial support, health care and other benefits. en there is the push for expansion of public funding of abor- tions. All this at the expense of taxpayers, many of whom oppose these actions that advance ungodliness. I do not claim that COVID-19 is God's punishment on America, but when the likelihood is examined as is done here, there is more than ample reason to seriously consider the possibility. If this is not God's punishment on us, we would do well to treat it as a warning and change our ways. Ruth Graham spoke absolute truth. Is God carrying out justice to America through COVID-19? Do we deserve it? KARL MERRITT, Columnist. COM- MENTS? Editor@upandcomingweekly. com. 910-484-6200.

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