Compared with my Trump pontifications, those concerning Corona have been a lot less. I suppose it is because I know more about and am more interested in the former rather than I am the latter, but nevertheless, given the relationship to Christian unity …
We are now a year into having been made aware of a the deadly Covid-19 virus and while the general expectation was this would soon blow over, it hasn’t. Many are putting a great deal of store on a vaccine now being widely rolled out as the way forward for life getting back to normal.
Without dismissing the fact the virus is real and measures needed to be taken to combat it, I lean to the living life normal camp as far as is reasonable, yet as things stand, because of qualms, I will not be taking the vaccine, although I respect the decision of many friends who have. While like everyone else I have been impacted, I have got away with it relatively lightly and, indeed, I have found several positives. But I recognise that the effects due to Corona for many, e.g. mental health, socio-economic, have been devastating.
This brings me to the church … I begin with an excerpt from Jesus’ High Priestly prayer that pertains to His true followers that were to come, which unlike the institutional church is the true Church:
“9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. 10 And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. 11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. 12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled. 13 And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 15 I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. 18 As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. 20 Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” John 17:9-21
The reason for sharing is first to point out to those expecting the imminent return of our Lord Jesus Christ that His prayer (especially verse 21) has yet to be answered. I am not talking about Christians in name only (but who am I to judge) but real Christians, who for much of the history of the church even when there weren’t the number of denominations we now see, have often not had the ONENESS that Jesus had in mind when He prayed His prayer. Besides the Liberal, Catholic and Evangelical divide that I became aware of when I was a teenager, but more recently this is seen among Evangelicals (I hate labels so please bear with me). It has meant many a falling out and even if there is a polite acceptance – for, albeit with some notable exceptions, it is far from the ONENESS that Jesus had in mind when He prayed His prayer.
While views on what I consider TWO of the “hot” issues that divide Christians today – Trump and Corona, along with … wait for it … one’s attitudes to Conspiracy Theories, should NOT divide us, if we belong to Jesus we are part of His body, building and bride and Jesus’ instructions to us are clear: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” John 13:34,35. There are the simple matters of obedience to the Master and winning the world for Him that ought to dominate our priorities, with such “minor” differences being set to one side.
I have experienced in this year of pandemic considerable personal shaking that has humbled me. Some fall outs I experienced have left their mark and, while I cannot forgo conscience, integrity and truth, I find such family rifts to be regrettable and I do not wish to claim the spiritual high ground. As I consider the various “church” reactions to the pandemic, I do so recognising there is often the “other side”. These days, my sphere of influence is limited and age and infirmity have been added limiting factors. Yet as a Watchman on the Wall, I am obliged to warn and encourage.
What prompted this article, although it was what finally got me to write having been pondering the issues for some time, was reading a statement by the UK Elim Pentecostal leadership. I am not a member of the Elim, but I know fine Christians who are. It was to do with Corona vaccines and attempted with partial success to be conciliatory. While recognising members hold different views, their recommendation was to take the vaccine and one of the reasons was to do with “love your neighbour”. I could not help feeling what about those who are beholden to seriously studying the Bible and sincerely obeying Christ and yet see NOT taking the vaccine as their response to loving our neighbour, because they see something quite nefarious about the agendas around the virus and the vaccine.
Then there is the woke mentality that I have seen permeate many denominations, especially the Baptists. It sees that our focus must be on diversity and reaching out to the other, and responding to many of the social issues that crop up in today’s culture, such as climate change, LBGT rights and black lives matter. I often think – what about sin, righteousness and judgment – where do these come in? But then in fairness, I have seen many a response in this time of pandemic that is about loving our neighbour. My final observation concern churches that try to be Bible based, to live godly and simple lives and do preach on sin, righteousness and judgment. Yet these often go along with the official narrative when it comes to vaccines and take a view that those who do go along with conspiracy theories should not be interested in such matters. Then for those, let us say, who are more on my wavelength concerning views on the virus, vaccines, and the church, there are lessons we need to learn, as with everyone else, such as the need for humility and contrition.
Something I detected in earlier age when there were national calamities was that the question was regularly raised among Christian leaders – what is God saying? I don’t see it being asked to anywhere near the same extent, these days – maybe out of the fear of man and not wanting to upset people, especially as it is rightly noted the “innocent” are often those who suffer most. I have found it grievous that Christian leaders when asked for their views give the wrong answer and fail to remind the questioner of the gospel message e.g. that we need to turn to the Lord, and the Bible is full of examples of God using such calamities to get peoples’ attention, even among pagan nations, and especially those who are His people, i.e. the Church, “for the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God“, and that is what is needed now.
I conclude having got certain things of my chest but mindful we have a long way to go. I pray every day for there to be a good end to the pandemic, for the truth about the virus and the vaccines to come out, the many known to me who one way or another have been affected and of course for the church and revival. While I have seen glimpses of Jesus prayer being answered, I look forward to a greater manifestation. I have also seen a certain stirring among God’s people! It seems God is in the process of refining the Church, making it the Bride He wants for His Son, and this is an often-overlooked reason why we are where we are. While I agree there needs to be more unity, there also need to be more truth. I little doubt His desire is for there to be revival, and it will happen!