The Christ Follower in this Pandemic

Background

The invisible Covid-19 virus has impacted society significantly for the past 2 years. Despite its impactful hold on the world today, there are ancient principles being laid bare for the teachable believer. Observing these principles will keep our feet steady in the day of crisis, where many are usually swayed by the different winds of opinions and knowledge in society, which in turn results in many fractions and divisions.

The hot topic in the christian circles here in Suriname today is Covid-19 vaccines. There are even court cases, protest marches and disputes among churches and its members. For the common goal, certain denominations were not careful to even share the same platform with other conflicting worldviews to fight against the COVID 19-vaccine program of the local government.

Observing this trend in the world and the ancient biblical scriptures, I’m driven by my curiosity to engage on this topic with the intention to ask you as the reader some questions to help you navigate through these very interesting, yet still familiar times.

Some Biblical Context 

There is a letter in the Bible written by Paul to the believers community of Rome. In the last chapters of this letter, the writer is emphasizing righteousness living through Jesus Christ. I find that Chapter 14 offers a very interesting perspective that is helpful in navigating through these times. 

Disputable Matters 

Romans 14:1 – 4 (NIV) states the following:

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. (NASB: but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions) 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Paul is making it very clear that righteous living entails accepting one another, first and foremost on the basis of their faith, for that is the place from which choices flow. Everybody has a measure of faith that allows or disallows him to do certain things. Therefore, nobody can assert the right to bring a fellow member of the household of God down, because of these differences. The  differences in opinion  are driven by reasons to honor the Father. Ultimately, the Father is only interested in all of his household standing. So,it is not about the difference, but more about the sacred reasons behind the difference

Romans 14: 5 – 9 (NIV): One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

Throughout the letters written by Paul, you get a taste of many disputable matters that were being argued about in his days: Sacred  days or no  sacred days; Clean foods and unclean foods; Eating food sacrificed to idols or not. I think if Paul was in our day, vaccins would be one of the hot topics that the church would write to him about.

Equal People – Different People – Loving God & One Another 

In Paul’s letter to the believers community of Corinth, Paul is also arguing that these differences and disputes are also triggered by the values we place in what we (think) we know

1 Corinth 8:1- 8 (NIV): Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. 2 Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. 3 But whoever loves God is known by God.4 So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.7 But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. 8 But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.

People are equal, but we certainly do not hold equal knowledge. Therefore, as the household of our God and Father, we cannot build our relationship based on what we know. This will only be the cause for fractions and in inability to come together. There is ample evidence of this alarming impact on the Body of Christ today. And for Paul the solution for righteous, unified, brotherly and sisterly living is first and foremost loving God, because “whoever loves God is known by God” Now what does that mean?

Being known by God, is that supernatural interface that happens where there is revelation and divine insight that flows from the Father to us. This is exactly what happened to Peter in Matthew 16:13-17, when he declared by revelation of the heavenly Father that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. And here is the point: the revelation of the Father to us, is absolutely crucial for Jesus to build his governing body (Ekklessia)  here on earth. The immovable rock, the unmovable principle for the believer’s community to be relevant and to respond accurately to Jesus himself. The ancient foundation for Christ, to build Himself in us and through us.

There have been too many confessions from a place of personal knowledge, which have resulted in severe conflicts with one another and God. The word of God shows in the same passage in Matthew 16:22-24 how confessions out of our knowledge can make us a stumbling block before the Lord. In that passage Peter wanted to prevent Jesus from going to the cross. Based on Peter’s knowledge and understanding, that seemed right, but it was not aligned with the purpose of God and the source of this revelation was therefore not from the heavenly Father. 

So we must supersede what we think we know and hold dear to get past disputes, so that we can focus on what is crucial: being the Kingdom that the triune God takes pride in. A space where only knowledge from God flows to us

Now about the Covid 19 – vaccines 

At the moment, the Covid 19-vaccine is a pressing matter and a challenge for many  fellow Jesus -followers. And understanding this fine line between our own knowledge, the revelation of God and the knowledge of other, I’d like to further refer you to the following to navigate through the days: 

Romans 14: 14: I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 

Paul is cautioning that in this case of food limits, these personal laws are self-imposed. And as for him, he is not moved by such laws and completely convinced of his freedom in Christ.  This is a remarkable power that one holds to bind or lose oneself. In that regard, there is an invitation to a deeper view and understanding of what defiles us, a broader view of looking at the world and what is happening around us so that we can move in the freedom of Christ in this world that the Father is purposed on saving. Will we destroy the work of God, because of vaccines?(Rom 14:20)

I’d like to invite everyone to take a step back to really review the postures we are holding in this regard. Here are some questions to help you on the way.

  • Have you ever trusted medication/vaccines prescribed by your doctor?
    • What was the basis for your trust?
    • Did you know at that time about the approval process the medication went through?
    • Did you know about the pharmaceutical industry behind this medication?
  • Have you ever been vaccinated?
    • Why was it easier to trust those injections then?
    • Why was it easier to trust the pharmaceutical industry behind these vaccines then
    • Have there been major differences in the mission of the medical industry today? What are those for you? Has their mission suddenly shifted to complot against the world population? Why now?
  • What evidence and knowledge is feeding your conscience to trust or distrust the vaccines?
    • Who are your sources?
    • What makes them trustworthy?
  • How do you as a believer conduct yourself when your brother or sister does not possess the same knowledge as you concerning vaccines?
  • You who considers yourself strong, have you been accepting the one whose faith is weak concerning the vaccine or is the relationship purposed on passing judgement on his or her opinions?”
  • Do you judge your brother or sister for taking or not taking the vaccines? Or do you treat them with contempt? What are your reasons?

We have not even gotten into the role of the government and the authority that they have received from God to exert power. Where do we start or stop trusting those placed in authority. Where do we stop or start trusting those who have some level of expertise? Where do we resist? Just think for example about  Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They chose their battles wisely and as a result, doors were kept open for them to partner with God in establishing His purposes during the time of crisis. We have to be very wise in picking our battles. And again, this will be only easy to do when we move from a place of divine revelation. For many of us, we have elevated the vaccine to such a level that it has become an unnecessary issue.

If God could keep us safe from all possible negative effects of other medicines, while not knowing and understanding what it is and how it came into being, why would he not be able to keep us when taking this vaccine? What are we actually afraid of? Are we taking the vaccine as a deliberate step to harm ourselves or to be part of the solution in this real pandemic? Yes, Covid-19  is a real safety concern for all humans that have been made in the image of God, saved or not. 

Some Final Notes

If we are truly responsible kingdom citizens driven by God’s love and His love for the world, we don’t want to make decisions that could hurt others. Many people who were asymptomatic have spread the virus to their loved ones and others around them. The statistics also show that  millions of people have died from Covid-19 and most were unvaccinated. I invite others who profess the name of Christ, like I do, to mind these things and to be part of the solution.

As a final note,  let’s not destroy the work of God for the sake of Covid-19 or Covid -19 vaccines. Let’s focus on the weightier things of righteous living. ​​I encourage the leaders in the Christian community to encourage their members to trust and respect the government authorities. Nobody of the government of Suriname wants to loose our small population to Covid-19. The Minister of Public Health needs our prayers and support. Let’s be subject to rulers and authorities, let’s be obedient, let’s be ready to do whatever is good in this crisis. (Titus 3:1).

At the end of the day, whatever you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God (Romans 14: 22:) and let’s live a life of wisdom, peace, love and mutual edification.


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