Book Review

God and the pandemic

God groans with us in our suffering, exemplified through Jesus, who wept at Lazarus’ tomb

N.T Wright’s recent volume came out of the press as the first contribution to Christian literature on the pandemic. Wright critiques the current Christian response of blame game, shaped by luxury and comfort, disconnected from the early Christian practice of service and sacrifice. He asserts that Christians today have opted for modern equivalents of Greek philosophy in understanding the pandemic. They have also failed to grasp the fundamental Biblical concepts such as power, sovereignty, and sacrifice to demonstrate God’s reign over the world.

He draws two strands of thoughts from the Old Testament: God’s punishment of Israel’s sinfulness through exiles and the suffering of the righteous (Psalms 44, 73; especially the Book of Job). He asserts how lament becomes a significant response amidst such injustice during the righteous’ suffering. The section on the Gospels portrays Jesus himself as the sign of God’s sovereignty over the world, which bespeaks not only through the miracles he performed but through his death and resurrection. He further proposes the early Christians’ response to the famine as a model for the present crisis, where Christians become the sign themselves, rather than seeking after signs in the pretext of Christ’s advent. Reflecting on Romans chapter 8, he indicates how God groans with us in our suffering, exemplified through Jesus, who wept at Lazarus’ Tomb.

Finally, he flags up the increasing irrelevance of the Christian witness in society due to “the escapist evangelism and spirituality.” The present Church, divorced from its long tradition of serving the poor and needy – that used to be more than what the government and others did – is now relegated to society’s fringes. Christian leaders failed to rise above their secular counterparts for radical action, while they often claim that “Jesus was radical’’. He rightly points out that Jesus is not in the locked churches, rather out there suffering along with those who suffer, bringing hope and life. While the early Christians laid down their lives practicing radical hospitality, Christians today cloistered themselves to their homes, participating in webinars and “cyber churches” amidst the crisis. He concludes with a warning that other forcers (Mamon) will take control unless we act now. This short book is an easy read that helps us think biblically, theologically, and pastorally—a good resource for personal reflection and church study groups.

PR. THOMAS SAMUEL<br> Word of Hope Christian Fellowship Luton, UK

Word of Hope Christian Fellowship Luton, UK

Thomas Samuel is Minister at Word of Hope Christian Fellowship Luton (affiliated to AOG, U.K.), and Chaplain at NHS Bedfordshire Hospitals U.K.; online Discipleship Coach with Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. He has an M.Phil (New Testament) from Middlesex University, London; M.A in Sociology from H N Bahuguna University, UP, India; and M.Th from SAICS, Bangalore. He is a former Lecturer at IPC Theological Seminary, Kottayam, Kerala. He is married to Praisy and they have three children.

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