by Brad Beals
“And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.”
Much of our news lately has been related to preparation for the pandemic. How we’ve over-prepared. How we’ve under-prepared. How to prepare for re-entry. How to prepare for the next one. The WHO, the CDC, leaders at all levels of government, and pundits from every perspective have all weighed in on these things ad nauseum.
And yet as we deliberate, there’s another pandemic brewing, a much deadlier one. Paul refers to it in Romans 6 when he says, “The wages of sin is death.” Sin leads to death, and it’s the truest of pandemics in that it has already infected 100% of us. It’s brewing all the time, of course, but today, right now during this lock-down, it’s showing up in specific hotspots.
Pornography, substance abuse, domestic violence – the sins that tend to happen in darkness, behind closed doors – are all sharply on the rise. This should be no surprise. When the restraints that God places on us (good restraints like routine and accountability and wide open doors through which light shines and people come and go) are removed, the heart will go its natural way.
When COVID-19 has run its course and life has returned to some semblance of what it was before, the fallout from this “hidden” pandemic will show itself. Some will be hurting from sins they’ve committed, some will be hurting from sins committed against them. And some of these — we pray that it’s many of these — will seek help as the Spirit awakens them to their fallen and hopeless condition before God.
“The church is not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners.” No one is sure who first said this. Some say Augustine, others Chrysostom. It doesn’t matter who said it — it’s true. The church is a place for sinners. It is the place for sinners. But as we see now these new indicators of spiritual pandemic, we need to ask, “Are we ready?” Are we preparing ourselves for it? Are we ready to treat the sin-sick souls who will knock on our doors? Will we be ready for the world’s refugees looking for sanctuary?
Yesterday, pastor Jason preached on Peter’s confession in Matthew 16. In answering Jesus’ question as to who he thought Jesus was, Peter said, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” It is this confession that the church holds out to the world. We preach it, sing it, show it in our sacraments, and state it in our creeds. This is the medicine we have to offer, the cure for sin that dwells in every heart.
Paul continues his thought in Romans 6 this way: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Here is both the problem and the cure. If the church is the hospital, then each of us who belong to Christ is a first responder. Will you be ready, Christian, to do Gospel triage? Will you be prepared to offer this life-giving remedy to the world?