Malachi 4:1-2: See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.
Flattening the curve is something that the US just can’t manage to do. A lot of the world had resurgences of COVID this fall, but the US seems singular in our inability to control the spread. According to my morning news briefing, Belgium, France, Italy, Kenya and Saudi Arabia saw their case numbers fall over 50% in the last month. Numbers dropped more than 40 percent in Argentina and Morocco and more than 30 percent in India and Norway. Meanwhile, here in the United States, cases have RISEN 51% over the last month. We are doing the opposite of flattening the curve.
O Lord, make haste to help us.
This is the work of evildoers, and that category certainly doesn’t end with the current President. The evil here in our country is anchored in arrogance – that we are isolated and independent and anyone who can’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps is malformed and unworthy. This insistence that we do not belong to one another, that your health does not affect mine, that my responsibility ends at the property line and my so-called “rights” are more important than your life: this is not just short-sighted or evolutionarily foolish; this is evil.
Certainly the people in positions of power who have refused to craft and endorse policies that center care for all are doing evil. Certainly the lawmakers and lobbyists and economically powerful who decide to do what is most advantageous for themselves and their donors instead of what shores up the well-being of ALL of us are doing evil. And: when we live our own small lives as if what we do doesn’t affect anyone else, as if it is only our own, private salvation that matters, then WE ARE DOING EVIL.
Putting your kids in private school in order to avoid being a part of the failing neighborhood public school: evil. Hoarding wealth while neighbors go hungry: evil. Ignoring the way COVID is raging through prisons in order to ensure your own place in the vaccine line: evil. Continuing in-person worship in order to satisfy your biggest donors while ignoring the fact that you are endangering the elderly and vulnerable in your care: evil. Hosting big holiday parties in your house while your local funeral home employees are flat-out exhausted from all the COVID deaths in town: evil. Refusing to wear a mask in public while COVID-19 is killing more than 1 beloved child of God EVERY MINUTE: EVIL.
People do evil – it’s part of being human. Much of Christian theology centers around the possibility of confession, repentance and repair of the evil and harm that we do in the course of living. We cannot escape being wrong or doing evil in general but SO MUCH of this current evildoing is entirely voluntary and avoidable.
The people I know who are doing this kind of evil aren’t really interested in listening to me, but perhaps their professed faith might convince them to listen to God. Facebook friends got super mad when I said that having in-person worship is killing people, but God’s assessment and judgement of all this is FAR FAR FAR FAR worse than anything I could ever say:
See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble; the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. 2 But for you who revere my name the sun of righteousness shall rise, with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. 3 And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts.
Evildoers get BURNT TO THE GROUND. The wicked become ashes under the soles of our feet. These are three measly verses from one single prophet. If you do a survey of what God promises to do to evildoers you will end up with nightmares for months.
Evildoers – in biblical understanding – are not people who commit sins against purity. The people that God promises to BURN TO THE GROUND are not people who cuss or drink or teach Critical Race Theory or work for full inclusion of LGBTQ siblings. Evildoers are the ones who ignore, neglect, oppress and murder their neighbors with their arrogant selfishness.
So many people I know, particularly middle-class white people in the US, see the current crisis as something we can ride out and put an end-date on. The vaccine is HUGE and will do so much to mitigate the evil we are doing to one another. But God does not forget what we do in the meantime. God is merciful, gracious, and slow to anger, to be sure, but God suffers no fools. These are the days when our faithfulness, character, mercy and obedience are being judged. God does not take kindly to stiff-necked, hard-hearted people who close their ears to both human and divine pleas for compassion. In fact, God promises to BURN THEM TO THE GROUND and then snuff out the ashes with her boot heel.
I mean, it’s up to you: wanna burn in your selfishness or take advantage of God’s persistent invitation to act like you’ve got some sense?