Partiality by Vaccination
The lack of biblical discernment among several big name evangelical leaders and churches is now beyond disturbing. More and more reports of a new form of church segregation are popping up around the nation. Ironically, some of the same pastors and leaders who have been slowly but surely drinking the Kool Aid of wokeness, which claims its aim is “antiracism,” are now encouraging if not outright instituting the sin of partiality in their churches!
The church Pastor Tim Keller leads is now seating people by COVID-19 vaccination status. Several other churches around the country are doing likewise. Some churches are threatening to fire employees who refuse to take the shot. Other prominent evangelical voices, such as John Piper, David French and Russell Moore, are beating the you-must-get-vaccinated-if-you-are-loving drum like hyped-up percussionists in a high school marching band competition.
Some of us small fry pastors saw it coming some 15 months ago. And to be fair, several large fry pastors and leaders did too, such as Voddie Baucham, Tom Ascol, Owen Strachan, Virgil Walker, Darrell Harrison, Jon Harris, John MacArthur, Allie Beth Stuckey, and Scott Brown, to name a few.
Way back in the Spring of 2020, the pastor-elders I served with began to prayerfully formulate our philosophy and strategy regarding this thing everyone was calling the COVID-19 pandemic. Since it was so early on, with little to no actual data available, we withheld much of our own thoughts and opinions, or at least we decided not to say too much publicly. Secretly, I shared with a trusted pastor friend that I suspected this thing might go down in history as one of the biggest overreactions and overreaches ever, but only time would tell. I can now let this cat out of the proverbial bag only because more and more data is actually revealing I just may have been correct (even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then). For example, if you haven’t heard this podcast titled “COVID by the Data” you must stop and listen now:
Take a look at this webpage dashboard: https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/drew.davis1802/viz/COVID19ResponseAnalysis/Overview
But before the data was available, our pastor-elders decided to nail down a few things, namely:
- Medical issues such as wearing masks and getting vaccinations are, by and large, issues of individual Christian conscience. There are no explicit biblical texts demanding a believer get a vaccine, for example. Therefore, we must be silent where the Bible is silent, and allow believers to follow the Spirit’s guidance, particularly as He impresses our consciences. Resisting the urge to argue and pass judgment, which always goes both ways, is paramount to the peace and gospel unity of a church in matters of Christian liberty (Romans 14).
- The enemy was going to use the hyper-politicization of seemingly everything in our culture, but especially issues surrounding this virus, to divide us. Therefore, we must put on the whole armor of God (Eph 6:10-20) and not be ignorant of the devil’s schemes (2 Cor 2:11). We must not allow Satan to divide us in the local church over issues not explicitly addressed in the Scripture. Rally around the gospel and the confessions of faith we hold to dearly. Learn to disagree on lesser matters as brothers and sisters in Christ.
- Do not lord over the flock in matters of individual Christian conscience (1 Peter 5:1-5). Forcing people to mask-up to attend worship is not biblical nor God-honoring. Forcing people to have no contact in worship gatherings is not biblical nor God-honoring. And discriminating against people in a worship gathering based upon vaccination status is just plain satanic. This is precisely what God forbids in James 2:1-13. (Ironically, what woke leaders call “loving” is exactly what this text says is unloving.) Making reasonable provisions for those at high risk of a disease is one thing. Mandating medical treatments and forcibly seating people accordingly is altogether another animal, one which has rabies and will destroy a church.
- Obey the Word of Christ first and foremost, even if it means disobeying lesser authorities (Acts 5:29), and even if it makes us unpopular by the world’s standards. Seeking to appease the world has never been a good evangelism strategy (John 15:18-25; 1 John 2:15-17; James 4:4).
- Do not ask people to violate their consciences as Spirit-filled followers of Christ. To do so is sin. Can you wear a mask in faith and do you desire to do so? Good. Carry on. Or, would wearing a mask be something you could not do as an act of faith (taking God at His Word and resting in His finished work in Christ)? Then do not. Can you receive the shot in faith? Fine. But if not, then do not. “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Rom 14:23). And whatever course you pursue in these matters of Christian liberty and conscience, led by the Spirit, pass no judgment on brothers and sisters who do otherwise.
These principles seem so clear and explicitly biblical. But far too many Christian leaders have over-complicated matters by being lured into the political fire-fight raging all around us. What started as a simple plea to “flatten the curve” is now threatening to consume us all. I do not pretend to understand all the connections and ramifications of what is happening . . .
But I do know that not everything is political. And when something is not political, such as medical treatment of a virus which can be researched and studied and then analyzed by a data-driven approach, we ought to resist all fleshly urges to politically weaponize it. In so doing, we end up only hurting ourselves, for in Christ we are, in fact, ultimately only one body. Pastors like Tim Keller may be shocked to find that they actually need those unvaccinated hands they are chopping off (1 Cor 12). We all have a common enemy, and it’s not the church member who does not see this issue eye-to-eye with you.
And I do know that not everything is a “gospel issue.” In evangelical circles, some leaders are desperately trying to convince us that “social justice” (as defined by CRT, not the Bible) is a “gospel issue.” So, if we do not renounce our whiteness, drop our privilege, and become an anti-racist activist for a this-worldly socialist utopia, we are peddling a truncated gospel. It does not take a PhD in Political Science to see how this easily morphs into the argument that if you do not mask up and get a shot, you are unloving (and love is of course the gospel issue of all gospel issues).
But adopting socialism or advocating for capitalism is not actually a gospel issue. Getting a vaccine or refusing to do so or trusting natural immunity is not actually a gospel issue. The Apostle Paul includes none of this nonsense when he proclaims the gospel of Christ crucified and risen (1 Cor 15:1-4).
Politics are important, but not ultimate. Politics, like all of life, flow from our theology and doctrine. It strikes me that some of the Christian leaders who told us it was OK to vote for a politicians who support abortion and all sorts of sexual sinful perversions are the very same ones now telling us we are unloving non-gospel jerks if we do not do what those politicians say. Nevertheless, we must resist the urge to both politicize and “gospelize” everything. True believers are bound to come down on both sides of an issue as complex as preventing a virus. Imagine if we politicized and polarized people based upon how they approach influenza. Chaos would ensue. Indeed, it has.
For decades it has been popular for evangelical churches to craft a mission statement or motto that goes something like “The Great Commission and the Great Commandment.” Sounds biblical and good. But I fear we have conflated the two.
We dare not forget that the Great Commission exists because nobody, not even one of us mere mortal humans, has ever fulfilled the Great Commandment.
Gospel sanctification is the effect of gospel salvation, but never the cause of it or even a synergistic means of it. God help us rally around the gospel of pure grace.
“Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Gal 3:3)
For more thoughts on these matters, check out this podcast: