Flu killed around 50 million people between March 1918 and June 1920. Half the world’s population was infected, including people in the Arctic. The Spanish flu, as it was called, has been described as “the greatest medical holocaust in history,” and it’s been popping up in mild and lethal form ever since. In its lethal form it causes a massive overreaction in the immune system, among healthy people especially, and that’s what makes it so deadly.
To add to our worries, there’s a strong hint in Romans 8:20-21 that God made lethal viruses on purpose. “For the creation was made subject to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in the hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay.”
First of all, God made us “subject to frustration” – and how true that has proved to be, because we cannot stop ourselves dying. How frustrating. But God also put us in “bondage to decay,” where we cannot stop ourselves falling apart before we die either. No matter how hard we try we cannot reverse the ageing process, or eradicate all the diseases that kill us. We can’t even stop flu. It remains a constant threat, and if it doesn’t burst into pandemic proportions this year, it’s a ticking time bomb for the future.
But why would God do such a thing to us?
Paul answers that in verse 21 – it’s “in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.” What we long for and hope for – a world free of death and disease – will happen one day. But before it happens there’s a lesson to be learnt – that we are children of God, not God.
It’s an important lesson, because our destiny, Paul writes, is to live as God’s children in his loving care and freedom forever, but how will that ever happen if we think and act as if WE are God and masters of our destiny?
So God creates a world where it becomes obvious we are NOT masters of our destiny. He creates a flu virus that can kill us, and no matter what we throw at it we cannot kill it off. It simply mutates and pops up in some other form, to get the point across to our thick, resisting heads that we’re not God. God is God, and he proves it by making us subject to death and disease – whether we like it or not, BUT always “in the hope that” we STOP thinking we’re God and we’re happy being his children instead.