Dear Elim Grace

this is not about the merit of a covid vaccine. If God can fill the craftsmen “with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft” (Exodus 31:3-5); if God can fill the farmer with knowledge and Himself teach him “what to do” (Isaiah 28:260); then certainly God can fill the right people for the right making of a vaccine.

But this is not about that. This is about “what God wants,” according to our governor. And “what God wants” is for you to get the vaccine. Getting the vaccine is a test: a test of your wisdom, love for neighbor, and faith in God. This is about taking a vaccine and lifting it up (or wearing a vaccinated necklace) as the “sign of the cross”, a “Shibboleth” (Judges 12:6), a mark of “circumcision” — a religious and spiritual test of the sincerity of your faith in God and love for others. Fail the test and your Christianity is in question, your salvation is in doubt. 

The reality is that a covid vaccine is not a universally accepted sign of faith by the church and body of Christ worldwide. Neither is the covid vaccine a universally accepted sign of faith in individual Christian organizations, ministries, churches or families. A covid vaccine is no more a sign of your righteousness and faith before God than eating certain foods or following certain traditions was for Paul. The timeless and universal sign of our faith in God is our faith in Christ Jesus crucified and resurrected.

When Paul urges the Christians and the church in Rome to “submit to God’s righteousness,” he also warns them against “seeking to establish their own”. (Romans 10:3) For Paul, for the church, for us, to “submit to God”s righteousness” is to put our “faith in Christ”. Faith in Christ is the only given and accepted basis to receive “the righteousness from God,” to be “found in” Christ and, therefore, to be accepted before God (Philippians 3:9). Paul considers anything he’s done or accomplished, any good work, to be “a righteousness of my own” which is nothing more than a complete “loss” (Philippians 3:8). Paul’s confidence before God, before the church, and before the world is not in him but in Christ alone. 

It is not, then, on the basis of any moral behavior, any righteous obedience, any loving sacrifice that you are accepted or acceptable to God. It is solely upon faith in the obedience and sacrifice of Christ that anyone is reckoned righteous, born again, saved, made a new creation, raised to life in God. A Christian is from first to last a man or woman in whom Christ now lives (Galatians 2:20).

Christians who fall prey to the snare of “public righteousness” and “civil religion” and “political salvation” and “moral behavior” as the measure and standard of being a Christian are falling back to standing on a “ground without foundation” rather than laying the foundation of their life and faith “on the rock” of Scripture and Christ.

We are not to be “apostles” or “sent ones,” as the governor would commission us, of a new gospel or religion. When Christ sent out His Apostles, He sent them out to preach “Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). The Apostles refrained from putting any obstacle—any moral and self-righteous behavior or requirement—in the way of those they were sent to. There were those saying, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 15:1) But what did the Apostles “lay down”? Did they back up circumcision or some other good work? Did they add more requirements “to be saved?” No. Here is their response:

“Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, 23 with the following letter: “The brothers, both the apostles and the elders, to the brothers who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia, greetings. 24 Since we have heard that some persons have gone out from us and troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us, having come to one accord, to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” (Acts 15:22-29) Just to be clear, the Apostles decided to “lay on you no greater burden”.

To speak of “what God wants” and of loving and protecting your neighbor, I would humbly say the governor should begin here: consider standing up and publicly asking forgiveness of the families who lost loved ones in nursing homes around the state. The State’s lack of love for neighbor and protection of the vulnerable has been proven. But when was the last time a public leader took responsibility publicly and asked forgiveness from those they lead? I can’t recall such a moment. I do remember Jesus saying true leadership is not lording it over those you serve, but rather taking a towel, washing feet, and becoming a servant of those you lead.

Again, this is not about the merit of a covid vaccine. This is about conscripting God and manipulating a vaccine as mandatory proof of our faith in Him and our love for our neighbor. Elim Grace, put your faith in Christ and, as Augustine preached and lived, “Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.” For those who have ears to ear, let them hear.

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