Whenever something bad happens, we become preoccupied with the question of “whose fault is this”. I think we all have this tendency, whether we recognize it in ourselves or not. The “blame game” is as old as Adam’s attempt to throw Eve under the bus in the garden.
Perhaps this is why there are rampant conspiracy theories that always seem to arise during any major catastrophic event, whether it is the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, the attack on 911, or this virus. I have heard theories that run from, the Chinese developed the virus to cull their overpopulation, to the United States planted it in Wuhan to undermine the Chinese government, to it was a biological weapon China was developing and it got out of hand.
So, what people often want to know in regard to COVID-19; who is to blame here? Who is at fault?
Perhaps this is why there is such a kerfuffle in the press about terminology some are using to describe this particular coronavirus as “the Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus”. The criticism for using this terminology seems to be that it is “racist” to use these designations as placing blame on China for this virus. Indeed, news stories are starting to arise of people of Asian descent or appearance being the object of discrimination.
Now, I don’t know if people are intending to be racist in the usage of these terms or not, for who can know the heart motivations of another human being? If these designations of the virus derive from racism, I am completely against that and condemn that. If however, it is a desire to be descriptive and accurate and in keeping with the naming of some past epidemics (MERS [Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome – also known as the “Camel Flu” according to Wikipedia] and the infamous “Spanish Flu” of 1918 – so named because it was first detected in Europe and Spain was the initial epicenter), then there might be legitimacy to the designation of the virus in those terms. But even those terms (MERS and Spanish Flu) were meant to be descriptive rather than a means of assigning blame to a specific people or region for a biological event. If used simply as a descriptor of geographical origin rather than a vehicle of blame, then those terms might be legitimately used.
So, Terry, if you do not believe in some conspiracy theory to which we might ultimately pin the blame, and if you do not want to blame a specific people group, who do you blame? Who is responsible for COVID-19. The Scriptures would point to the fact that sin, which is the genesis of every ill, is rooted in our first father, Adam, and passed on to us. Every tragedy, every cataclysmic event, every catastrophe, every human cruelty can ultimately be traced back to the event at the beginning of time that thrust a curse on both humanity, and the earth. This does not mean that there is a one-to-one ratio of sin to effect. In other words, a flood does not happen because a person (or group) sinned in Johnstown back in 1889 to create the tragedy. This is a cause and effect world God has created and, in a sin-cursed environment, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes will now happen because we are still waiting for the redemption of the creation (Rom. 8:20-22). Now, had it been proven that at Johnstown in 1889, there was someone who actually blew up the dam, causing the flood, we could then make a one-to-one assigning of blame, while still having to acknowledge sin as the ultimate source of that persons actions. But short of that, the answer is that no single human being, or group, (or race), is to blame for a virus occurring in a fallen creation.
Now, having said all that, we must remember two things: 1) we are all still responsible for our individual sinful behavior. We cannot simply say “it was Adam’s fault, I’m guiltless”, and 2) God is sovereign over all calamities and tragedies (Isa. 45:7; Jer. 49:8; Dan. 9:12-14). And in a sense, all the turmoil, upheaval, catastrophe, and disaster are, in a derivative sense, God’s judgment upon a sinful world, including its inhabitants. God is said often in Scripture to use plague and pestilence to correct and punish but always with the aim of repentance on the part of those afflicted. God’s design in plague is that people might rush to him, repent, and be saved.
So, based in this, and absent the reality of a conspiracy theory being proven that evil Dr. X designed this virus and unloaded it upon a hapless populous, this is not China’s fault. We cannot “blame” China any more than we could blame an Arab population for MERS or the Spanish population for that pandemic. Now, might any of those people groups have done more to retard the progression of the disease. Perhaps. Might blame be levied in the context of bad decisions made once the virus descended? Yes. But for the virus itself, no.
Let’s not play the blame game. Rather, let’s be reassured that even COVID-19 is within the confines of God’s sovereignty, even as we are this very moment. There are tough days ahead. People will get sick and without doubt, more people will die. All will endure inconvenience and financial loss. But all those things are the “good” that God does in the lives of those who love God and are the called according to his purpose (Rom. 8:28). God does not say they are fun or pleasant things. But he does say they are good because he designs them to bring us into greater conformity to the image of Christ. This is the underlying hope in all we are enduring: God intends to make us more like Jesus.
May COVID-19 be a sanctifying event in the lives of all his people, even those who might die and are translated to Heaven. After all, as hard as that might be, isn’t that the ultimate sanctifying event?