By Rev SEIK PITOI
JANUARY 2020 saw the start of a major upheaval across the globe.
The little bug, referred to as the “China virus” by former US president Donald Trump, began to spread its deadly venom. A year on, every nation on earth has been touched and affected. Over 3 million people worldwide have died from this pandemic, and the death toll is rising.
PNG is no exception. Health experts tell us that PNG has its own variant of Covid-19, and that as infections increase, deaths associated with it are mounting. The Pandemic Controller was also recently empowered to order mass graves to be dug for mass burials, if the need arises.
Meanwhile, the vaccine’s arrival was met with mixed feelings. Even the medical fraternity doesn’t seem united in its views on the efficacy of the vaccine. Nonetheless, the roll out will proceed.
This year saw the second wave of the pandemic spread. The second wave has hit hard across the globe. Nations like India and Brazil are experiencing a tremendous number of deaths daily, and Africa is being hit hard with many nation states, previously untouched, suffering greatly with increased deaths. In Europe, the third wave has already started.
Mass grave burials and cremations are being carried out to cater for the huge number of deaths.
PNG did fairly well in the first wave. Infection rates were low, as well as deaths, partly due to a lack of testing. Moreover, at the outset, many Christians saw this as a call to repentance and prayer, and they prayed.
I noticed two main types of responses at the onset of the pandemic. One group of Christians fell immediately to their knees and repented, asking God for His mercy on the nation. They prayed faithfully to hinder the spread of the virus. At the same time, good people observed the advice to wear masks, socially distance themselves and wash their hands regularly. I believe this and the initial lockdowns added to controlling the first wave. People did not drop dead in the streets as we saw on television happening overseas, and infection rates were low. Testing was in its infancy but things were being controlled well.
Meanwhile, as the first group repented and prayed, the other group made boastful claims about how PNG was exempt because “all 8 million of us are God’s people” and that we are the ‘only truly Christian nation in the world’. This claim was used to justify the apparent ‘success’ in surviving the first wave. This good fortune seems to have psyched some people up.
This second group of people parroted, “PNG is immune to covid19”. Social media was full of rubbish about how PNG is ‘God’s special nation’ so we are spared the effects of Covid. Others chimed that because we “have a hot climate”, we will not get Covid, and that ‘only sinful nations are being punished’ while we, as “God’s prototype chosen nation” will be spared.
Many of these people point to the 400 year old Bible sitting in parliament and the so-called ‘covenant’ signed between ‘God and PNG’ by our forefather as why God is ‘protecting’ PNG from getting Covid. Sadly, many church leaders lead this chorus. The misuse of scripture to back these heresies is astounding.
Currently, a major prayer and fasting initiative was called by church leaders. Christians from all denominations were rallied up to collectively beseech God for His mercy and grace in this critical time. This is an excellent initiative from the Body of Christ and the council of churches.
However, in hearing the prayers of some of the pastors, I realise many still espouse wrong theology. There is a spirit of ethnocentrism, an elevation of PNG today as God’s chosen nation, replacing Israel in the Old Testament. Apart from it being the heresy of ‘replacement theology’, this arrogance leaves no space for genuine brokenness and repentance which is the key requirement for healing the land in the oft quoted passage in 2 Chronicles 7: 14.
Here is an analysis of a misquoted Bible verse:
And now if you will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure to Me above all the nations; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.
This verse refers to Israel. Israel was set apart by God as His chosen nation to carry out the task of preserving His word and bringing forth the Messiah to bless the whole world. No other nation on earth was called by name to do that job.
This verse is also quoted in the New Testament by the Apostle Peter to teach the early Church that as Israel was to God in the Old Testament, the Church is in the New.
1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for possession, so that you might speak of the praises of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light; 10 you who then were not a people, but now the people of God…”
The ‘nation’ referred to here is ‘a nation of believers in Christ’ – the Church, not a political or geographical nation. PNG is certainly not being referred to here. This is where the error occurs.
Is PNG a Christian nation?
PNG certainly is a nation whose constitution is founded on God’s word. We are just like many countries in the world, including African nations, the Pacific islands, and even the United States whose roots are embedded in God and His word, and whose leaders publically confess their faith in Christ.
Most of their populations adhere to Christian beliefs. PNG is no exception. However, that does not constitute a ‘Christian nation’. To say our nation has “8 million people who are all God’s people” is a false claim. Like every nation on earth, PNG is a nation made up of mainly Christian believers – but not everyone is a Christian.
Going through the whole population of PNG, one will notice a proliferation of other religions, such as Moslems, Buddhists, Hindus and Baha’is, to name a few.
Under our democratic form of government, people have the freedom to worship as they please. No, we are a nation with a large Christian population, but we are not ‘a true Christian nation’. There is no such thing!
But don’t we have a 400-year-old Bible in Parliament and a national covenant with God like no other nation? Yes, it’s nice having the Bible in Parliament but wouldn’t God rather have His word in the heart of all 109 MPs? Having the Bible, God’s word, hidden in our hearts keeps us from sin (Psalm 119:11). If all our MPs and senior bureaucrats decided to keep the Bible in their hearts, we would see them live holy and righteous lives of integrity while leading the people.
We can make a big deal out of having the oldest Bible but if we are still living in sin, practicing corruption in high places, nepotism and regionalism, while swindling our constituents – then that 400-year-old Bible stands for nothing!
The only nation God cut covenant with was Israel. Through the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God cut a covenant with Israel to make them His people and Him their God. He promised to give them land and a posterity through whom the Messiah would come (Gen 12:2-3; Ex 19:5; Psalm 15:8-11).
Hundreds of years later, God cut another covenant for the benefit of the nations like PNG. This covenant, known as the ‘New Covenant’ (Jer 31:31-33; Luke 22: 20) was cut on Calvary by the Lord Jesus, opening the way for all gentiles – like PNG – to come into God’s family by faith in Christ. Every person is saved by grace – not by race! Every person on earth, including Jew and Papua New Guinean, will have to choose Jesus/Yeshua to be saved (John 3:16).
Call to repentance
God is calling every nation on earth to repent. Mankind has turned away from God to his own devices. There is no fear of God any more.
This is evidenced greatly in our nation, the so called ‘only Christian nation’ in the world. Crime, lawless and corruption are rampant. For example, one major marker to determine how sick PNG society is becoming, is by seeing how we treat our women and girls. Our women are disrespected, mistreated and abused daily.
How many reports have we heard about certain policemen belting up or abusing women under the pretext of ‘enforcing the law’! There is no respect for women because there is no fear of God! Sadly this sickening behaviour destroys the excellent work done by many of our honourable truly hard-working policemen and women who deserve our praise!
To conclude, there is much to repent of. Rather than saying all 8 million of us are ‘holy people’, let’s get real and face the truth. We are far from perfect. We have a lot of repenting to do.
As the nations of the world continue on a collision course with the God of Israel, every individual must seek God and turn to Him now for Christ’s return is imminent. Indeed, the key to healing the nation is with every Christians (‘called by My name’), who will humble themselves, pray and turn from sin.
Only then will God hear us, forgive us, and heal our land. (2 Chron 7:14)
- Rev Seik Pitoi is a freelance writer.