21 Fire will come; it will catch, and judge
For Heraclitus, fire is a central concept – far more than just a physical phenomenon. There are several fragments which refer to fire, fire as a central symbol of the justice of the universe, of the order underlying all things. Fire is not purely destructive – it tests, and judges, but can reward as well as condemn. Paul says something very much the same in his first letter to the Corinthians:
For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done.
There’s more than one sort of fire. The coronavirus has spread around the world like wildfire, and it has exposed governments especially. Those whose main concern was for the health of their people, and those who were more focussed on financial success, are now clearly seen to be different. It has been widely observed that countries with women in leadership seem mostly to have responded more quickly and firmly in protecting their people.
On a more local level, in communities and families, the same judgement will have been in play. In my own setting in the Church of England, there is a continuing process of judgement going on as to how we will be reshaped for the future (and ongoing discussion about how well we have responded so far). We are all open to judgement.