I have a serious objection to pastors and churches claiming that withdrawing from others, wearing masks, injecting experimental substances into yourselves as well as others, and generally living lives of fear is the best way to love your neighbor. Loving your neighbor sounds like a great idea, something we really ought to consider. Setting aside your rights for the good of others really feels like the sort of thing that a Christian should be quick to do. It’s all just so… so… FLUFFY! But with just a little discernment and a little study, you can see that there is a very strong statement underneath all of the cocoa with marshmallows cozyness.
And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31 ESV
Loving your neighbor is the same thing as following the second tablet of the Law handed down to Moses. Failing to love your neighbor is not just a bad idea and not just a loss of warm fuzzies. Failing to love your neighbor is sin. Thus, these pastors are placing a sin burden on anyone who differs with them regarding a matter where God has either not spoken, or where He has spoken in contradiction to their compromises. Make no mistake here. This is theological malpractice. And unlike doctors and lawyers, pastors do not hold malpractice insurance. They will be held accountable for their misdeeds, and we can only hope that they do actually have an advocate in the courts of Heaven. For their sake.
Anyone who has an elderly grandparent has been questioning if it is more sinful to visit them or to abandon them to loneliness. Anyone frustrated with the ever-changing statements regarding masks or vaccines to the point where they choose to abstain is now left to question if they are sinning with every exhalation and with every visit to the grocery store. Anyone choosing to refuse to live a life of fear is threatened with the burden of sin. And this threat is coming from way too many pastors who know the name of Jesus but who reject His authority over Heaven and Earth.
Allow me to present a different way of approaching this.
There is a principle of the weaker brother, originally used with meat that had been sacrificed in idol worship, now used frequently with Christians discussing whether alcohol should be allowed or forbidden. The most common proof text for this is 1 Corinthians 8, but I believe Romans 14 gives a better look at the concept.
Romans 14 begins by telling Christians not to quarrel over opinions. Regarding meat, one person is convinced that it is just meat and can be consumed. The other person is convinced that the meat is tainted with the idolatry from which it originated, and refuses to eat. Both of these people are convinced in their own minds (verse 5) and that is OK. What is not OK is when one of them judges the other for a position that is not sinful, which leads to quarrels, which leads to divisions within the church. The Bible says nothing positive whatsoever about the person causing division, also known as discord, among the gathering of God’s people. It is cited in Proverbs 6:16-19 as an abomination before the Lord.
Divisions in the church aren’t about meat today. Not including the Vegans out there, I suppose. I live in Iowa, one of the freer states throughout the entire plandemic. But other places are not as free as I am. Divisions remain about whether the building should be open, whether the church should accept visitors, whether the people should pre-register, whether everyone inside should be required to wear a mask and about whether the dirty unvaccinated should be allowed to mingle with the vaccinated. And instead of appealing to the liberty that is ours to decide for ourselves what we ought to do, people are trying to coerce others into doing what they feel is right, in some cases they are misrepresenting Romans 13 in order to do it. Jesus is Lord of the church, not Caesar. The people pushing to bind others in ways that are not authorized by scripture should be avoided and in some cases cast out of the church. Mark them, avoid them, excommunicate them. Yes, I’m deadly serious about this.
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. Romans 16:17-18 ESV
I have been part of an elder board during a pandemic. I know the stresses that are involved as you try to balance what to do and how to go about it. I understand how different people have different levels of fear of the unknown. I get it.
I also understand that in the Law handed down to Moses, instructions are given about infectious diseases. To summarize, we are instructed to quarantine the symptomatic. They are to remain apart from the rest of society until their symptoms have ceased and they can be verified as no longer being a danger to the population. Then they are able to rejoin society. What are the instructions to the healthy? I can’t seem to find any restrictions placed upon them at all. And before anyone says that they didn’t know about COVID-19 back then, just remember who came up with the Law that was given to Moses in the first place. No virus has caught the God of the Universe off guard. Yes, that includes man-made viruses and viruses after gain-of-function enhancements. Yes, I went there.
So if you are a church official pondering how to approach this subject, please consider what I have shared here. Your job is not to place a new sin burden upon others. Your job is to foster a community of grace-filled people who can make up their own minds about how to proceed and who will live according to their conscience, all without binding the conscience of everyone around them with their opinions. Does this mean that you will be required to use the Bible to convince professing Christians to allow other professing Christians to live as free people? Gasp!
Now hold on just a second!
There may be some who think this is an incomplete idea. Well… you’re right.
Are you happy? My idea is incomplete. I am lacking in the concepts I am putting forward here. And that is because I originally came up with this concept before people IN YOUR CHURCH were suffering the loss of their means of providing for their families due to vaccine mandates. You know, because some people IN YOUR CHURCH might say that they weren’t very loving to their neighbors because they didn’t allow an experimental substance to be injected into them, therefore this is completely their fault.
You might want to move your toes. They are about to be stepped on.
This is incomplete because the command that some churches offer up is incomplete. You see, I was told for a decade that I needed to surrender my rights for the good of my neighbor. I wanted to speak out against things that were evil because God’s word says they are evil. I wanted to meet through a pandemic because God’s word says we ought not to forsake the gathering. I wanted to have an organized response in the event of a violent attack upon our gathering, as unlikely as that was.
I wanted to follow God, rather than man. It’s as simple as that.
Following God sometimes means asserting what rights God has declared for you. The Bill of Rights in the USA did not grant any rights to the people. It codified rights that were given by God and instructed the government of this new nation to defend those rights on behalf of the people and, ultimately, to the glory of God. Thus, for me to set aside my God given rights is no better than me accepting some red stew in exchange for my birthright. (Genesis 25:29-34) Not only does it display a despisal of the gift of God, it also undermines the similar right that your neighbor has been enjoying.
Setting aside rights that are the gift of God is sin. You are failing to love God. You are failing to love neighbor. You are despising both.Yeah, I said it.
I have said before that I came to faith later in life. The tender age of 30, to be precise. When that happened, I was a voracious learner. I read everything I could find, both online and in book form. I quickly had to learn how to chew the fat and spit out the bones, so to speak. I learned about concepts and eternal truths that I had been unaware of, though I was raised in the church. I accused the church of not addressing these topics in my younger years, for surely I would have believed and been saved had I heard this before!
The truth is that I wouldn’t have believed. I know this for sure because I didn’t believe. That is my proof. That is my evidence. I don’t need to know if these deeper truths were ever presented to me in order to know that I wasn’t ready to believe. Until the spirit of God regenerates a person, nothing you can tell them will cause their dry bones to come alive. They are dead in their trespasses and sins, just as I was. The reason your neighbor doesn’t believe is not because he or she hasn’t been given enough information. The reason their faith is lacking is that their faith in God has not been granted to them.
I didn’t believe at the age of 29 because the truth was not in me. There are some who are trusting in the word of their favorite politicians and their remedies because that is the truth that is within them. They have been conformed to CNN. Or FOX News. Just to be fair and balanced. Meanwhile, people IN YOUR CHURCH are suffering for their stand against the principalities of this world. Are you giving from your poverty to help them? Or are you suggesting that they just sin against their own conscience in order to join you among those who are the socially acceptable? You know, the ones who don’t have to wonder if they will be allowed into regular society in a short time?
And that is an ever-evolvinig group of people. The vaccinated and the unvaccinated have one thing in common. Neither group will EVER be fully vaccinated. It will never end. Someone who decides to get off the merry go round of booster shots will be in the exact same boat as the person who decided not to become a test subject of Lord Fauci.
Every Christian who has been told that they need to set aside their rights for the good of others will soon be challenged to do so. If not already, then very soon. And just as my faith was made more vibrant in my desperate times of anguish, the faith of many churches will be revealed. Will they set aside their rights when it actually costs them something? Will they crumble when the hypocracy is revealed? Or will they compromise a middle ground solution and call that a win for the kingdom?
It is not humble to speak in shades of grey over matters where God has spoken. It is arrogant. It is not loving to despise God and neighbor. It is hateful. There will be a reckoning, and only those with Jesus as their advocate will survive it. Many will way “Lord, Lord! Didn’t I…” and we know how that ends.
Love God. Love neighbor. And allow God to define what both of these commands look like. Repent and believe as often as you find a shortcoming in this. And you will do well.