I am so thankful that when God designed his bride he made her a community.  He knew life would be too hard to do alone and that even though community can also be hard, doing life with people who share the same ultimate values and goals is incredibly fulfilling.  When that ultimate value is God’s glory, and when that highest goal is showing him to a world that needs him, well, that is the greatest joy, peace and purpose a person can know.  I thank him that in my very transient life where I have had the privilege of worshipping in hundreds of different churches in several countries and continents, I have always found family; people who love my Jesus, are trusting him for their salvation and are learning to make him Lord.  I have always found people who are willing to help me as I pursue the same things in my life.  God’s church, like God himself, is a refuge for the broken, a place of grace and forgiveness, and the place through which God has chosen to demonstrate the deity of Jesus to a world that needs him desperately.  

I remember the first time I realized what I was reading in John 17.  I was born in church and raised on the mission field, so I am confident I read it many times before.  But I was an adult when I first realized that in the last hours before he was brutally tortured and executed, Jesus prayed for the church, the future church, the one of which you and I are a part.  If you, like me, have missed this, please stop and read John 17, especially verses 20-26.  It was staggering to me to be faced with the truth that in Jesus‘ last moments on earth, as he addressed his father knowing that in the coming hours his father would reject him, his heart’s cry was “unite my bride, let her unity reveal me to those who have not become a part of her, and let her unified beauty display my glory.” I knew that elsewhere he promised his followers that our love for one another would demonstrate to the world that we were his children, but I saw for the first time that Jesus believed that our loving unity would show the world that he was God!

Our brilliant, omniscient creator God chose his church to show this world who Jesus is.  Honestly, I am baffled by this.  To me, as a member of his church, it seems ill-advised.  But God is omniscient and I am not, and so we have a purpose, a reason for existing that is unlike anything the world can give us.  And our God has given us the game plan to realize that purpose in our world.  The game plan is simple, but far from easy.  It is this: Love one another.  Stand united no matter what the cost.  Be the church.

Which brings me – at last – to my point, and I want to tread so gently here.  There is hardly a soul who doesn’t have very strong feelings as we navigate this global crisis, and especially now as we try to understand what is right, wrong, better, and best with regard to getting a vaccine for COVID19.  Whether we care to admit the fact or not good, thoughtful, intelligent people are deeply divergent on this issue.  In fact, good, godly people hold dramatically differing beliefs, and in many cases we hold them fervently.  And here’s the thing, that’s ok.  We are only humans.  Our knowledge is limited. Science continues to advance and the more we learn, the more we realize we don’t yet know.  Oppose me if you will, but I am absolutely convinced that there is ample room for humility and for grace on either side of this debate.  And let me be clear, I am equally confident that I am not well enough informed to argue one side or another.  So I will do no such thing.  

What I will do is take sides on an issue of infinitely greater importance which is the glory of Jesus and the reputation of his church.  When I look at the way the church – you and I – are treating one another because of our differing convictions on this issue, I have no idea how the world could possibly see the glory of Jesus reflected in us.  Does that sound harsh?  Excellent. That was the goal.  My spiritual family, the night before he died, Jesus begged his father to unify his followers.  He did not ask that we all believe the same things about every aspect of life.  He asked that we would be unified.  Unity is simply working together harmoniously towards a common goal.  The truth is that unity is always more profound and inspiring when those pursuing it are diverse.  If the world could observe the bride of Christ, despite the deeply held differences between her members, working together in love to bring glory to Jesus at the expense of their own personal convictions, they would KNOW that something supernatural was taking place.  They would have undeniable evidence of the deity of Christ.  What else could unify such a diverse body of people?

Please take a breath, stop, consider the unique opportunity that is before us.  We are in a world divided.  There is hatred and disgust on both sides of this debate.  And we can be different.  Our rights and responsibilities with regard to these vaccines are not the hill the church of Jesus is called to die on.  The hill the church is called to die on is the hill of Calvary, and there, at the foot of his cross we are called to die to self.  We are called to surrender our rights, our fears, our agendas, ourselves for the gospel of Jesus.  That is our hill.  That is the place where each one of us found grace, and that is the only place where we will receive grace to share with our fellow believers as we navigate the coming months. 

What will that look like for you my precious sibling?  I have no idea, and I will make no effort to tell you.  But please don’t waste time deciding the cost that others should pay.  Ask God to make clear to you what he is asking you to do.  It may mean surrendering your will to the authorities in your church. It may mean welcoming people into your home and your Sunday school class who are not vaccinated.  It may mean getting a vaccine you fear, to demonstrate love for those around you who fear differently.  It may mean allowing your child to be taught by an unvaccinated Sunday school teacher.  It may cost you.  But let me say this clearly, and I remind myself of this even as I type, there is no cost too great for the glory of Jesus.  No cost.  

And today the church stands in full view of a world that might just be noticing for the first time that what this life has to offer is frankly, not enough.  We have an opportunity to demonstrate the One who is more than enough.  Please, let us be the answer to the agonized prayer of our precious Jesus in the hours before his death.  Let us be humble toward one another.  Let us show grace to one another.  Let us be unified in love even when we are not unified in thought, so that the world will know that Jesus is the Son of God.

24 thoughts on “To vax or not to vax. A letter to the church

  1. Thank you for providing this very important perspective, Hope, and doing so, so graciously! I too have been concerned about the Christian witness to the world in the last few years (and not just about the pandemic and vaccinations. O, for grace!!!

    • Elsie! So good to hear from you precious friend. Yes, the church has gotten so many things wrong, but Jesus loves his bride and the more we love her the more we give him glory and bring him joy. Keep the faith. I know you make him smile!

  2. So well written Hope, and such an important message, for myself to be reminded of, and for the church. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this because I think every Christian should read it and be reminded of the heart of the matter no matter where one stands on the Covid vaccine debate..

  3. Edith Tuomisto says:

    Thanks for writing this Hope, we surely do need the reminder that we are not home yet. That we have been asked to love, not to judge. To come together in unity.
    Thank you Jesus for all you have done for us.

  4. THIS!! Thank you for being brave and typing these words Hope! You so eloquently said, with truth and love, what my heart has been wrestling with for months now. Thank you sweet sister. To the glory of Jesus!

  5. Michelle Wright says:

    Thank you Hope for writing and sharing those thoughts. SO important. I think Satan is using this whole Covid issue to potentially divide the church, get us to lose our focus and our unity. I agree with you, the most important thing, especially in these days, is our unity as a community to a confused and hurting world. We need to grab this opportunity and be a witness and not allow Satan to do what he longs to do.
    Praying for wisdom, mercy and grace to be the light Jesus sacrificed so much for us to be. Thanks again for putting your concerns out there.

    • Thanks Michelle. I am with you 100%. This can be so divisive and really hurt people’s perception of Jesus, but if we choose to love and lift him up as a body unified in our worship of him…? This can be a golden moment in history 🙂

  6. Thank you for sharing these thoughts with us. And for being brave and speaking out against the massive disunity we have in the Church especially during the pandemic. Love you, sis! And keep blogging!

  7. I completely agree with you, Hope, that unity in the church is what the world needs most to see. However, if that unity comes through a deliberate flaunting of the practices that will help to protect Christians and non-Christians both from the results of exposure to Covid, how is that a witness to a frightened world?

    I think we need to go deeper. How can we respect the views of those whose opinions differ from ours while still showing loving concern for their safety and our own?

    • I’m so sorry Joan. I’ve been MIA for months on this blog and am just now trying to get back on the horse over here. Thank you for your comment. I agree that this is a complex problem. My concern in this post, as you recognized (thank you for reading my thoughts charitably:)), is that people within God’s church have treated one another hatefully over their differing understandings of this really contentious topic. I know we agree that behaviour does not reflect God’s heart, and it is a really sad misrepresentation of Jesus to our world.
      I really appreciate the way you phrased “showing loving concern”. I think that’s the key in all of this. Our motivation in any discussion has to be loving concern. We need to interact the way that Jesus would if he were still living in the flesh among us. He was never afraid to disagree with people, and when people were leading others in ungodly spiritual directions he was really outspoken, but his motivation was the welfare of others. He prioritized his father’s glory. He liked a good debate, but he was in it to heal broken people and show them the way to his father. Almost three years into this it is a messy issue. I’m still refusing to weigh into the debate in any context outside of my living room where we can have a cup of tea and I can make sure the person I am addressing feels loved and heard. I just want to interact with people on both sides of it with grace and kindness so that, if they day comes when they see their need for Jesus, my words and actions won’t be the reason they turn away. I hope that makes sense!

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