One of my responsibilities as an elder was church security. It was a smaller church, unable to afford security officers, so my role in any emergency was to direct the people to a safe location by any means possible. That emergency could be a fire or an injury, perhaps an allergic reaction to the treats up at the coffee bar. But we all knew that the intent of the role was an active shooting situation. There had been several publicized church shootings recently and somebody had to accept that role. I knew the others in the elder room well enough to know that their intent was that I would act as a sacrificial target as I begged for the shooter to repent and believe, hopefully surviving the encounter. I do not say this with any malace. They were convinced this was the best way to honor God, and perhaps it might have been. I never found out. I pray that they never do find out. Ending a threat can be achieved with a defensive action using a weapon, by everyone escaping out the back door and perhaps by a shepherd taking the assault on behalf of his flock.
Yes, there is a place for that. I am not pretending that there isn’t a long record of martyrs who have accepted their death for the advancement of the gospel. But there are various contexts throughout history and I do not live under first-century Roman rule. Martyrdom is a tool in my toolbelt. It is not, and should not be, the only tool available though. The Bible is replete with examples of God’s people being told to escape troubles by any means possible. Thus, I was prepared to use a different solution in case of a problem and also quietly discovered several others who came each week prepared in the same way. There was no organized training. There couldn’t be. We were told to set aside our rights for the good of others, even our right to continue breathing if we thought that Jesus would look better this way. Instead, I affirmed those who came prepared for potentially the worst day of their lives and encouraged them to practice and train frequently. I gave my opinions regarding holsters, belts and also the necessity of being familiar with first aid equipment and concepts. They understood that the plan was to maximize life and a shot could only be taken when the opportunity presented itself. Thankfully this role for me was never tested.
Giving up your rights for the good of others can be a noble thing. But what makes that action noble? Is it when you decide or does Jesus get to decide that? The first of three commands given in the Great Commission is that we are to recognize that all authority on heaven and earth has been given to Jesus. Therefore, to use your own sensibilities rather than trusting in the clear guidance of Jesus would be sin. The Bible includes instructions on how we are to live, including not forsaking the gathering. To decide otherwise, based on someone who claims a greater authority than Jesus would be sin. Giving up your rights also often means giving up the rights of your neighbor, who you are commanded to love. To give up any of your God-given rights then, without clear guidance from God, is sinful.
Before you get too out of shape over that paragraph, by the way. Nowhere did I say that you shouldn’t surrender your rights or obey the civil authorities. I just said that the line between sin and obedience can be harder to ascertain than previously understood. The coming days will take men of conviction if we are to get through it. Men who are sold out to Jesus first, Family second, Community third. Don’t you worry. I didn’t miss mentioning church in this hierarchy. A proper church is your family. As a Christian, you have more in common with another Christian who attends a church on the other side of town than you do with an unbelieving twin sister. You’re going to need people in the coming days and they are going to need you. So if you aren’t already, get plugged into a church. A church that is serious!
Hold on, this is the pivot
Serious about what? In our tumultuous age, that can change from week to week. I don’t say that as a shortcut to laziness. I say that because any concept that you come up with must be one that scales into large and small matters. It must be able to be useful for a variety of situations. Your church may have an active shooter. There may be a race riot in your community next week. Sickness may give some power-hungry mayor the political cover to impose illegal mandates over your neighbors. People in your church could be arrested for daring to worship in public. These things are no longer theoretical. It is time for your church to get serious! Do you follow God or man?
The CDC director has stated that the vaccines out there are unable to provide lasting protection for those who have received them. Therefore, boosters may force a change in the definition of what it means to be ‘fully vaccinated’. In plain English, no one will EVER BE FULLY VACCINATED. The goalposts have changed for everyone who has submitted to the vaccine. Compliance has proven to mean perpetual mandatory injections if you want to be accepted in polite society.
The vaccine is not the mark of the beast. It isn’t the unforgivable sin. But it sure seems like a precursor. And I say that as someone who believes a vast majority of the events described within the Great Tribulation occurred in the time leading up to AD 70. It is the desire of many in society that those who have not been given the MRNA treatment be excluded from travel, from public venues, from commerce. Never mind the fact that vaccinated people are able to get this disease and spread it to others. That is not, and has never been, the point. Those who do not conform to the spirit of the age must be excluded!
So what does a Christian do in this situation? Some are and some are not in the privileged position of vaccination. Those with a certificate of compliance are able to display that and be accepted virtually anywhere. Those without one are privileged by their freedom to not have to worry about vaccination injury.
Those who don’t have spike proteins injected into their bodies may not have that health concern, but many of them have lost their livelihoods and many more are looking at this possibility for their own future experience. How does an employed Christian respond to this? I spent a decade being told that Christians will set aside their rights for the good of others.
John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
Christians in both groups, both vaccinated as well as unvaccinated need to realize their situation as well as the situation of the other. Both sides have potential advantages and disadvantages. Both sides have a responsibility to not judge the other. Are you enjoying a healthier immune system and a general lack of blood clots? Do not despise the one who came to a different conclusion. Are you enjoying your job even as others in your church have moved from the category of “essential worker” to the category of “unemployable superspreader?” Then do not despise them in their plight. Do not withhold your aid in their poverty until they make the same medical decision as you. For you to demand that is for you to demand they sin against their conscience. It is to place yourself into a role that I would not want for myself on that final judgment day.
Matthew 25:35-36 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.
Christians are pretty good at setting up food pantries and taking people to Cracker Barrel. Both are done quite visibly, for how can the hungry know about this option if it isn’t set up in order to be seen by men? No, I am not condemning your food pantry based on Matthew 6. I am, however, condemning churches who ignore the plight of those who have had their health wrecked or who have had their family finances wrecked because they chose one or the other vaccination status. They treat them like unwelcome strangers, and I have heard of some refusing to aid in the plight in any meaningful way. Who is naked, but the one who lacks the resources to clothe themselves? Who is sick but the one with a contagion, regardless of how that problem came upon them? You can’t be angry at a doctor who refuses services to the unvaccinated and then refuse to assist a family whose child just had a heart attack days after receiving their vaccination. Love doesn’t work that way.
But the real issue I want to get at is the last part of the verses above. “I was in prison and you came to me.” Prisons in the Roman world were quite different than prisons in today’s Western world. We expect prisoners to be given nutritious meals and medical care. Religious views across the spectrum are recognized, as are gender identities among other demon-worshipping practices. And if the person has not been convicted of a crime, we insist that they be treated with the highest dignity and respect. Well, unless the accusation is one of political difference. Those people can be treated like subhumans.
When you think of a Roman prison, think of this dastardly woman! This enemy of all that is good and right in the world! Much like her co-usurpers, Roman prisons were filled by people who were regarded as enemies of the state before any trial could be conducted. They had no reasonable expectation of ever getting out. Any provisions, such as food or medicine, were also brought to them by their friends on the outside. And that is how the Roman government found out who the other threats to the tranquility of the empire were. Visiting a Roman prisoner was the same thing as identifying with them and frequently it meant accepting the same fate.
Christians were called upon to care for other Christians in their plight and face a very real risk of joining them in their chains.Just emphasizing here…
When asked your vaccination status, and we all have been asked, it is wise to have an answer. Frankly, that is none of most people’s business, but an answer is still demanded. Whether the one asking is your employer, someone you run into at the grocery store, someone at church, or maybe some bureaucrat from OSHA or the TSA, the best response I can think of is, “I identify as one who is unvaccinated,” and that would be my response regardless of my vaccination status. After all, this is what is required of any Christian who is wanting to virtue signal by setting aside their rights for the good of others. And it also refuses a definitive answer to someone who has no business asking that question in the first place.
Great evil has been permitted in the name of this fear. The fear of death makes pagans go stir crazy because they instinctively know that there is a God who will judge them. (see Romans 1:18-20) The fear of death is something that Christians all over the world claim to be released from, including the ones who will withhold their resources from another just because they came to a different conclusion.
And we all like to think of ourselves as the standard of truth.