Stop Babbling About the Pandemic
Reading: Genesis 11:1-9
Babel, also translated Babylon, shows up in Genesis and continues through the course of the Scripture all the way until the end (Rev. 18). It was an actual empire of the ancient world, but eventually became symbolic of the empires of this world that offer an alternative hope for peace, prosperity, and security. It is this alternative that entices trust from humans that belongs to God.
Babel, like the great cities of our own day, was a city of skyscrapers, with one seriously tall one reaching the heavens. Whether or not anything more than the “sky” is intended is up for speculation. Babel and its story, both in Genesis 11 and throughout Scripture, has something instructive for us in the current pandemic.
Babel and its story, both in Genesis 11 and throughout Scripture, has something instructive for us in the current pandemic.
Babel in Review
Those who built Babel were an immigrant people. They came from the east and settled in this place (Gen. 11:2). The people were attempting to make a name for themselves (Gen. 11:4). Skyscrapers seem to have the same effect today. When the Lord came down to view their achievements, he did not laugh saying, “They could never accomplish their goals.” Rather, he suggested that nothing would be impossible for them (Gen. 11:6).
However, the Lord stopped their progress, even undoing their united culture that was enabling such accomplishments by simply confusing their languages. By confusing their language, they could not understand each other, separated from each other, and were divided (Gen. 11:7-8).
The rest of Genesis 11 is the introduction to Abram’s family. Abram begins his journey when he and his extended family leave Ur of the Chaldeans (Babylon) to pursue the “nation” God has for him with his barren wife. It is through Abraham that God will bless all peoples of the world. God’s kingdom works in ways vastly different than the kingdoms of this world (Isa. 55:9).
By confusing their language, they could not understand each other, separated from each other, and were divided.
Babel in the Present
As kingdoms of this world go, the United States of America has built the greatest Babel of all time. It is a place of hope and promise. It has accomplished more than any other country to date. (I don’t think I speak this out of an arrogant blindness to the achievement of other nations). Its humanist principles have given our culture a sense that we are on the verge of reaching the heavens. Our technology has elevated us into the heavens—space itself. Some offer that we have eliminated the need for religion, having outgrown it. America’s economic success shines bright, which is a key aspect of “Babylon” (see Rev. 18:11-13).
Don’t misunderstand me. By saying that America has built the greatest Babel of all time, it is not all bad or good; it is a mixture. While its accomplishments are great, the kingdoms of this world will always be just that—kingdoms of this world. They will never be the kingdom of Christ, which will only be fully manifest in the age to come. He does sovereignly rule over the kingdoms of this world, but often against their intentions. At best, the world’s kingdoms will be a mixture of a kingdom that stands in opposition to Christ with a kingdom that aligns itself with Christ and His rule.
Yet just as the captive Israelites were to pray for the peace and prosperity of the Babel in which they lived (Jer. 29:7), so are we (1 Tim. 2:1-2). It is often in the Babel of captivity that God has plans to prosper and not to harm His people (Jer. 29:11), so we should live in expectation that the Lord will work good in any human kingdom since He is sovereign over them.
He does sovereignly rule over the kingdoms of this world, but often against their intentions.
Babel and the Pandemic
Despite this nation’s accomplishments, it has taken but one tiny thing to bring our culture to its knees. It is so small that it is invisible to the naked eye. All of us have seen computer generated models of it. It’s the coronavirus. Is it really this virus that has brought this nation to our knees? Could it be something else? I offer that it is something else; that the virus could not have had the impact it has without this something else. What has brought us to a halt is the one thing human beings cannot shake on their own, something that enslaves humanity, and something only the Gospel can conquer: the fear of death.
Since the children have flesh and blood, [Jesus] too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. (Heb. 2:14-15)
Only the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ can free us from the fear of death.
When I say that we are enslaved by our fear of death, or that it is the very thing that has ultimately brought us to our knees as a culture, I am not saying there is nothing to fear. Death is an enemy. Death is the very thing that came as a result of the fall and remains an enemy that is to be finally put under Christ’s feet (1 Cor. 15:25-26). Death is no laughing matter. However, because of the resurrection, Christians have hope beyond the grave and therefore, we do not grieve in the same way that those who have no hope grieve (1 Thess. 4:13).
This does not mean that Christians should therefore be cavalier about death. We realize that those who do not have hope face an eternity apart from God. Death is terrible. However, if there is an idol our culture worships, it is the age-old idol of mammon (money) (Matt. 6:24). That god is being sacrificed on the altar of the fear of death. It is unable to defeat death. Additionally, the conversation in our country about this is so divided that we can no longer understand each other. The divisions seem to be getting deeper and deeper.
The conversation in our country about the pandemic is so divided that we can no longer understand each other.
Believers and the Pandemic
As believers, we should stand apart. We represent, through the Spirit, the kingdom of Christ in the world. We should not be a part of the divisive conversation. We should not spread slanderous accusations against those who are attempting to bring health to the nation with unfounded internet gossip. We should recognize that there are many “truths” about this virus and consequent pandemic that point to a variety of responses that don’t necessarily agree with each other.
There is much that is not yet known about this virus and how to best treat Covid-19. However, we are clear about some things. The Scriptures clearly instruct us on how we are to treat one another and speak in such times as this. The Scriptures are clear about the need for humility and sacrificial service. The Scriptures are clear about the need to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19-20). These are ways we can manifest Christ’s kingdom rather than Babel (the kingdoms of this world).
We represent, through the Spirit, the kingdom of Christ in the world. We should not be a part of the divisive conversation.
Finally, it means that we should be alert to the possibility that some people may be more open to Gospel conversations than they usually are. Some may feel the need to talk about matters of life and death and spirituality. Though we should not attempt to force a conversation through some form of opportunism, we should be prayerfully alert to expressions of spiritual need. We also must be careful not to hear others talk about their concerns related to the pandemic and immediately correct them with our opinions about the pandemic, thereby squandering an opportunity to care for their souls.
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,