President Trump was released from Walter Reed Medical Center yesterday evening. Global stocks rose earlier in the day on the announcement that he would be discharged to return to the White House.
First Lady Melania Trump has been isolated after testing positive for COVID-19 as well and tweeted, “I am feeling good & will continue to rest at home.” Earlier that day, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany revealed that she had contracted the illness and would work from quarantine. She joined three Republican senators who said they have the virus, along with several members of the president’s team.
A jetpack for paramedics
Abraham Joshua Heschel was right: no one can write their autobiography in advance.
A week ago, who predicted that the president would spend the weekend in a hospital? Four years ago, how many were predicting that Donald Trump would win the election? A year ago, how many were predicting the coronavirus pandemic? A month ago, how many were predicting the imminent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett?
Paramedics in the UK are testing a jetpack that could enable them to fly up a mountain to provide first aid. Singapore Airlines will turn its grounded A380 double-decker aircraft into an exclusive restaurant.
And a team of scientists at Cornell University has developed a robot so small you could fit ten of them inside a single period. Researchers hope their invention will some day crawl around inside a human body to hunt for disease.
Which of these stories would you have predicted yesterday?
Two forms of biblical judgment
While the future is unknowable, there is a crucial way we can choose it today.
In light of the pandemic and other crises, I am often asked if our country is experiencing God’s judgment. I always respond by explaining that judgment in the Bible takes two forms: permissive and proactive.
If people reject the word and will of God, he often withdraws his favor and permits them to experience the consequences of their rebellion. In Romans 1, for instance, we read that people “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (v. 25). Does this sound familiar?
As a consequence, “God gave them up to dishonorable passions” of homosexual immorality (vv. 26–27). In addition, “since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” (vv. 28–31). What’s more, “they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (v. 32).
Does this list describe American culture today?
Why God waits
God’s purpose in responding to our sin is to bring us to repentance. If we respond to his permissive judgment by turning to him with contrite and repentant hearts, his word assures us that he is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
If we refuse, his judgment escalates from permissive to proactive. We see this on a national scale with the plagues in Egypt (Exodus 7–12) and on a personal level with the idolatry of Herod (Acts 12:20–23) and the unrepented sin of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–11).
The reason God delays proactive judgment is not because he is less holy, diligent, or sovereign. It is because he is “patient with you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
The pattern of Scripture is clear: God deals with us as gently as he can or as harshly as he must. As a result, we have a hand in predicting our national and personal future.
Reaching the world by next month
If you were the only believer in the world, but you led me to Christ today, there would be two of us. If each of us led someone to Christ tomorrow, there would be four of us. If all four of us won someone to Christ the next day, there would be eight of us.
Multiplying in this way, how long would it take to reach the entire world? Thirty-three days. In that time, 8,589,934,592 people would follow Christ, exceeding our population by nearly one billion people.
In other words, by a week after the election, the entire world would have elected to make Jesus their Lord.
In light of Romans 1, I am convinced that America is experiencing God’s permissive judgment. Will his judgment continue and even escalate, or will our nation turn to his forgiving grace and experience his transforming hope?
What if the answer were up to you and me?