My name is Andy.  I’m a husband and a father, a son, a brother, an employee, and if you live in the Portland-metro area….I’m also your neighbor.  And like you, I’m trying to figure out how to navigate all of those roles in a new COVID-19 world that I’ve never known. 

Before March of this year, I never knew what “social distancing” was, I had never experienced long lines at the grocery store just to get toilet paper (limit 1), I had never heard of “negative PTO,” I had never been told by the government to stay home until further notice, and I had never purposely avoided my parents because they were “high risk.”  As it is for many of you, this is all new to me. 

For the past several weeks, I have found my work, which is normally done every day in actual buildings with rooms and lots of people, moved into virtual rooms with addresses that don’t end in zip codes, but “.com” or “.us.”  Mediators like Zoom, Skype and Google now grant me access to those I used to greet with an outstretched hand, and hyperlinks are now the open doors to fellowship, coordination and conversation.  Date night with my wife has moved from occasionally sitting down at a restaurant to splurging on “Door Dash” delivered, and a drive to a local park, just to get some time away.

But that’s not all that’s changed.  I’ve also discovered that disinfectant wipes and spray are more valuable online than electronic devices, and that one wipe is not usually enough to clean the packages I receive from Amazon and Ebay, or the bags I bring home from Safeway.  If my life sounds at all familiar to yours, it’s because, as has now been declared over and over online and on the major TV networks, “we are all in this together,” “united we stand,” and we might add, “misery loves company” (as long as you’re 6-feet away).

But there is another way that “we are all in this together” that has not been noted in most of the news and reporting on this coronavirus.  And in a pluralistic society like we are in the United States, I wouldn’t expect it to be.  And yet, it is the answer to the question that so many are asking:  Why? 

Why COVID-19? Why the evil of such a deadly virus that seems unstoppable and so deadly?

Here’s the answer:  COVID-19 exists because human beings are in “this” together.  And the “this” is a broken world, stained by the reality of something that no one wants to admit, but everyone knows exists….sin.  Not necessarily the sin of the one who suffers from this coronavirus…but the sin of all of us together.

One of the definitions of “sin” in Webster’s dictionary is “a transgression of the law of God.”   A transgression is an act that goes against a law or rule.  For example, today in the State of Oregon, during this public health emergency, it is a transgression against the State for the church I belong to, to gather for services on Sunday.  For that reason, and out of a Christ-driven love for people, and desire to keep them from harm, the church I love to be with has ceased physically gathering together on a regular basis.  To do otherwise would be to “transgress,” or “sin” against the State, something that the Bible, God’s very words, teaches the Church should not do unless such laws or rules clearly contradict loving God and people.  

Well, that Bible also shows how all of humanity is guilty of sin against God.  It explains in its first book (Genesis) that God created a perfect world where there was no evil.  There were no deadly viruses, no sickness, no hatred, no racism, no murder, and no death.  It was perfect.  And into that perfect world, God created a perfect man and woman, made in His image, and He placed them into a beautiful and lush Garden where they had everything they needed.  And most importantly, where they had perfect communion and fellowship with God their Maker…and only one rule.

Unfortunately, that couple, by their own choice, decided to break that rule, and in defiance of the law of the God, who had created the earth for them and had pursued relationship with them…in that place of perfection, they postured themselves as enemies against a righteous, holy and just God.  And therefore, because God is just, the man and woman were punished for their sin.  They were banished from the Garden, away from the Presence of God, and the earth was put under a curse (Genesis 3).  And because of humanity’s transgression against God, because the heart of people had chosen sin instead of obedience, animosity instead of fellowship, and their own will instead of God’s, God gave them what they asked for….a world filled with the knowledge of both good and evil.  They, and their children through the generations, would now know both joy and pain, friendship and betrayal, peace and war, health and sickness, life and death.  Viruses would now make bodies sick, and people would now die as enemies of God and destined for an eternity away from His loving Presence, and in judgment for their crime against Him.

But God loved the people He had made.  And in an act of complete unmerited grace and mercy, in the midst of that curse, God made a promise: a Rescuer would come who would take the penalty for humanity’s sin upon himself.  A perfect, sinless and righteous Savior would come as a substitute and take on the wrath of God for humanity’s transgression.  And since, in their sin, no humans fit that description, God sent His one and only Son Jesus, as a gift to humanity, to be that substitute (John 3:16).  The Son of God came to earth, taking on the form of a human being like us, lived a perfect life with no sin, no transgressions against God’s law, and gave his life to be tortured and killed on a Roman cross to pay the penalty for my sin…for your sin.  And here’s the amazing thing.  He didn’t stay dead.  God raised him to life after 3 days, and with his resurrection came hope.  

And the Good News is, because Jesus is alive, hope is alive! 

And the invitation from the risen Jesus to me and to you, and to anyone who might hear his call is “repent and believe!”  Turn from the sin that makes you an enemy of God and believe this Good News that Jesus is the only way back to peace and relationship with your Creator.  That’s what we celebrate at Easter!  Jesus is alive and there is only one way to peace with God and hope for the future, through putting your faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for your sin.  

My friends and neighbors, COVID-19 has shown us the fragility of life in this broken world.  You will die.  If not now from this coronavirus, it will be from something else.  That’s not how God made the world, but that’s how humanity’s sin has changed this world.  And the reality is, without Jesus Christ, whether you have or contract this coronavirus or not, you are already sick with a terminal disease with only one cure.  Only Jesus can heal your sinful heart, only Jesus can take the penalty of your sin, only Jesus can give you a hope and a future for a life after this one. 

My name is Andy.  I’m a husband and a father, a son, a brother, an employee, and your neighbor.  And what I have freely received by faith, I offer to you: a life without fear and full of hope through faith in Jesus Christ.

If you would like to know more about Jesus, or you’re afraid and would like someone to pray with you, please call me, or one of the pastors of Damascus Community Church at 503.658.3179 (after hours at 503-489-7297) or contact us through a Communication Card here.

Andy McClellan, Associate Pastor of Outreach Ministries