Humble in the face of nature

Humble in the face of nature from St Stephen’s & St Wulstan’s on Vimeo.

26 February 2021

In his speech on Monday, the Prime Minister laid out a road map for coming out of lockdown.  He wisely admitted that many people feel that “it is arrogant to impose any kind of plan upon a virus.”  He also agreed that “we must always be humble in the face of nature.”  Such humility is welcome, especially when compared with the bold claims made in the early days of the pandemic that we would conquer the virus.  For all that has been learned and achieved, the virus has revealed how little we know and how powerless we are.  I have two comments:

First, if we are right to be humble in the face of nature – and surely we are – then how much more should we be humble before the face of God?  Interestingly, in the Bible, God shows Job the wonders of creation in order to humble him – not only in the face of creation, although that is humbling, but before the face of his creator.

Here is how God begins:  “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?  Tell me if you understand.  Who marked off its dimensions?  Surely you know!  Who stretched a measuring line across it?”  And God is just getting started.  It ends with Job admitting,  “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

The foundational sin is thinking that God is not God and that you are God.  It is a step forward to realise that you are not God.  If the pandemic has led people to do that, it is good. It is another step to admit that God is God.  We must pray that many also take that step.

Second, nature refers to the world as we find it, but that is a confusing thing, because ‘the world as we find it’ is both created and fallen: created good by God and yet marred by evil due to the Fall, when human beings rebelled against their creator.  So we read that creation has been “subjected to frustration”;   it is in “bondage to decay.”  It is not easy to disentangle the created and the fallen, although I think we can safely say that the coronavirus belongs in the category ‘fallen’ rather than ‘created’.  So what is ‘natural’ is not always good.

This distinction is important because some will argue, say, that same-sex relationships are ‘natural’ for some people and therefore good.   But that depends whether they are something which God created good or something which is fallen due to human evil.  And we need God to show us which is which, which is why we have the Bible.

Lord, show us where we tend to forget that you are God, and where we try to be God ourselves, and help us to let you be God, always.  Amen.

Chris Hobbs, Senior Minister