Have you seen in the news that the Chinese government is trying to blame the United States military for COVID-19? This has resulted in President Trump referring to it as the “Chinese Virus” to set the record straight. Then there are reports of Asian-Americans being called out in public, and mistreated. Apparently, there are some who think that Americans of Chinese heritage deserve to be punished because a virus originated in the country of their ancestors. The misnamed Spanish influenza outbreak of 1918 originated in Haskell County, Kansas. I wonder if Kansans were discriminated against. It brings up a question. Who’s to blame here? Whose fault is this pandemic?
For answers to this question we turn to Jesus. There is an intriguing conversation between Jesus and his disciples that might help shed some light on the question of blame. It’s found in the gospel of John.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3 NIV)
Jesus heals the man’s blindness, which results in a fascinating debate involving the Jewish religious leaders, the healed blind man, and his parents. The religious leaders are convinced that Jesus is a sinner, a charlatan, and a heretic. But how is he able to cure blindness if these things are true? It presents a conundrum, which doesn’t seem to be a problem for the formerly blind man who responds to their grilling with a simple diagnosis, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!" (John 9:25 NIV)
Back to the question. The disciples ask Jesus who is to blame for blindness. The consensus of thinking in the ancient world was that all disease and hardship was attributable to sin. Do you remember the story of Job? His friends could not be convinced that pitiful Job had not committed some type of sin. We still play the blame game.
Jesus turns their eyes away from the blame question. He says, “neither this man nor his parents sinned.” But rather than explain to the disciples the origin of this particular blindness, he turns their thinking away from the cause to the result. Regardless of the cause of the blindness, he explains to them, it will result in the works of God being displayed.
Applying this passage to the current situation, can we just stop with the blame game? The most feasible story is that this virus originated in a wet market near Wuhan, China. A wet market combines human interaction with all sorts of live animals sold for food. It’s a scene out of everyday life in China – nothing sinister about it. Like going to Sam’s Club or Costco. Somehow, in the mix of animals and humans, the coronavirus mutated and COVID-19 was born, spreading rapidly from human to human. Who sinned? I suppose the relevant answer is “Nobody.” Even though we know the universal answer is “Everybody.”
So, rather than obsess over the cause, let’s take advice from Jesus and turn to the result. What will the result of COVID-19 be? Well, that story is still being written. It’s too early to tell. But consider this. When this chapter of your life is through, what will people remember about how you responded? What will your children remember about how you conducted yourself in your home? How are you spending your time? What words are you speaking?
This could be an unprecedented time of spiritual growth in our world. I hope and pray this virus will ultimately result in increased intimacy with God – that hearts and minds will turn to him, and seekers will find the good news of Jesus Christ. Let’s do our part. Forget the blame game. Participate in God’s cure.