Dr. Ramesh Richard
Technical assistants attach a microphone to my face or jacket to ready me for another talk. “Say something. We need a sound check.” Earlier in my speaking career I used to count up or down for sound checks. On occasions I have quoted Scripture, mimicking my dad, who ascended Martin Luther’s pulpit in Wittenberg, recited aloud, “The just shall live by faith,” and quickly alighted. These days, I resort to a dry three-peat: “Testing, testing, testing.”
A global contagion has unnerved the collective human psyche. Panic is embedded in pandemic, not solely in letter, but in spirit. The scale and speed of this pathogen have united the world in fear. You, too, may have felt a bit anxious over these exceptional days of isolation, contact-tracing and testing, testing, testing.
These turbulent times tear down the walls of our many-roomed global castle to reveal all its load-bearing beams with no adequate foundation. Unsupported, these beams appear strong but cannot carry the weight of our world’s realities. We have quickly found out how flimsy and vulnerable we are, as individuals and systems, to hold the world together. We grope for every possible shoring-up instrument, substantive and superficial, to alleviate our terror. One nation’s president superstitiously held up two religious charms—“My bodyguards,” he called them—as divine protection from the virus.
Where will we find some hope and a future that rightly divides truth? A few pastoral assistants have called on me to say something, a sort of a soundcheck, to find personal meaning in natural disaster.
“Is this the ‘end times’?” my international host and a leading denominational leader asked me as he picked me up past immigration and customs. “Well,” I mumbled, “the latter days began in the first century, and we are further along than ever before.” He pointed out that “in the great tribulation half the world would be wiped out, so it must not be.” In any case, if the preview of the final days is so bad, we can’t imagine the anxiety, calamities and the afflictions of “the tribulation, the great” (Rev. 7:14 literal), unequaled in the past and unparalleled in the future (Matt. 24:21). As many as possible must be eternally saved, as quickly as possible. The gospel is not good news if it reaches anyone anywhere too late.
“Are these God’s judgments upon us?” wondered an older relative of mine. “If these are God’s judgments,” I replied, “we should have been wiped out a long time ago.” At every disaster (and the centuries have seen many pandemics), the question of God’s immediate retributive judgment comes up. Disasters, natural and human-made, provoke the human race to a renewed sensitivity to God’s moral standards that we flagrantly flout.
“What is God saying to us? What is God doing to us?” In rapid fire, these questions came in personal conversation with one of Christianity’s leading voices.
For every believer’s sake, I will recast my metaphor in practical terms. What is God saying and doing to us?
This plague pandemic is like a sound check—testing, testing, testing. It reveals the soundness of at least three dimensions of our Trinitarian Faith.
About the Author: Dr. Ramesh Richard serves as the founder and president of RREACH; general convener of the Global Proclamation Congress for Pastoral Trainers 2016; Professor of Global Theological Engagement and Pastoral Ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary; and founder and chairman of Trainers of Pastors International Coalition. He holds a Th.D. in Systematic Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Delhi. To learn more about the ministry of RREACH, click here. For other articles from Dr. Ramesh Richard click here.