On Saturday 25th April, over 6,000 people joined the live-streamed Call to Repentance and Prayer organised by Voice for Justice UK (VfJUK).
Readers of this blog will remember that on the same date in 590 AD, the city of Rome – known at the time for its corruption, moral decadence, immorality, and general decline – was miraculously delivered from one of the most terrible plagues in history, after a call to repentance and prayer led by the new Pope, Gregory I. In his inaugural address to the crowds, Gregory had proclaimed, “God is full of mercy and compassion, and it is His will that we should win His pardon through our prayers.”
The discerning will perhaps see parallels with the UK, where, for the last sixty or so years, we have increasingly worshipped consumerism, science and all things secular; celebrated sexual licence, immorality and depravity; slaughtered over 6,000,000 babies because, for whatever reason, they were at the time unwanted; plundered the planet of resources; exploited the vulnerable and needy; and attempted to reconfigure the human body so that it matches our preferences rather than biological reality.
Unacceptable though this will be to many, the bottom line is that in all of this we have sinned – we have gone against God’s laws as set down in the Bible. So if we want God’s help to deliver us from the current crisis, we need urgently to say sorry and amend our ways – to change. The good news in all of this is that God actively wants to help. But our rejection of Him, wrong choices, and sheer bloody-mindedness, at the moment stand in the way.
But this is only to scratch the surface of why we need to repent. Many in recent weeks have questioned whether the coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic is God’s ‘judgement’ on humanity. In permitting this to happen, God has unquestionably withheld His protection – yet a better interpretation is perhaps to see this as a warning of the judgment that’s to come, if we don’t pay heed.
Most of us, presumably, will come through this crisis. But the question is – what will life be like on the other side? There will assuredly be change, and for some – maybe even most of us – there will be hardship, as we cope with continued social distancing, job losses, straitened resources, and who knows what. Yet the truth is, God is giving us an opportunity and we need to seize it. If we repent, then He will help us. He will deliver us, and we will prosper. But if we dig in our heels and say, ‘No thanks, we’ll do it our way. On our own’, then far worse lies ahead.
God is shaking the nations as warning of the judgement from which none of us, if found wanting, will escape. But He wants to bless. He wants to save.
We would be wise to heed His call, because the plain fact is that, whatever our scientific advances and supposed moral sophistication, nature will always be one step ahead. The Creator of the universe remains in control.
So the bottom line is, if we don’t accept God’s invitation and repent, on the other side of this crisis there’s even worse ahead – beyond all our imagining, in fact. Which brings us back to the heading for this blog – we need to repent, IN ORDER TO ESCAPE THE JUDGMGENT THAT IS TO COME. Horror, conflict and destruction in this world, and damnation in the next.
To finish with the story of Rome. For three days Gregory led the people in procession through the streets, crying out in repentance, and at the end of that time the Archangel Michael was reportedly seen standing on the top of the castle of Crescentius, a short way from the Vatican, brandishing a flaming sword. In response to the crowd’s prayer, the archangel sheathed the sword and then turned to leave the city. And as he left, the crowd reported an immediate change. The air, they said, became fragrant and fresh – less heavy – and from that moment the plague stopped.
Let us repent, so that the same may be true for us. Let us choose life and blessing.