Let’s talk about masks and vaccines

Disclaimer: there are those who have not been vaccinated because of medical conditions and for other legitimate reasons. I have discussed my own reluctance to be vaccinated early on and admitted my own ignorance and arrogance. At this point, I do not believe there is any biblical argument that can be made by “christians” against masks. Likewise, I do not believe there is any biblical argument that can be made against vaccinations unless there are real extenuating circumstances.

The following post is to my fellow “christians.” Perhaps, the word christian needs to be clarified and defined just so it is clear who I believe to be speaking to concerning masks and vaccines. Unfortunately, the word christian has become synonymous with people and ideologies that are in complete contradiction to the “christians” we read about in the book of Acts and in the New Testament: “And all those who had faith were at the same place and owned all things communally, And they sold their properties and possessions, and distributed to everyone, according as anyone had need. And from day to day they steadfastly remained in the Temple in concord of spirit and, breaking bread in one house after another, they shared their food in gladness and simplicity of heart, Praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.”

Obviously…when you have clear examples of how christians lived in the first century but you do not see “christians” living the same way now. then things can get confusing rather quickly. Yet, if we can agree for the sake of this post to define christians by what christian’s believe and not how they live, then we might be able to get somewhere. Although, I am not sure how far we will get since there seems to be quite an assortment of “christian” beliefs. But to make this as simple as possible and to write to christians, I would like to define “christians” as first and foremost believers in Jesus Christ. More specifically, as believers in Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection as recorded in The Bible.

In addition to believing in Jesus Christ, I believe it is most natural that “christians” would believe “For God so loved the cosmos as to give the Son, the only one, so that everyone having faith in him might not perish, but have the life of the Age.” John 3:16

The New Testament tells us that God sent his son (Jesus) on a divine rescue mission and Jesus is the God-man who lived on earth and called mankind to himself: “Come to me, all who toil and are burdened, and I shall give you rest. Take my yoke upon yourselves and learn from me, because I am gentle and accommodating in heart, and you will find rest for your souls; For my yoke is mild and my burden light.” The Gospel of Matthew 11

From the 4 gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we learn that Jesus called himself many names. In John’s gospel we learn that Jesus called himself “the way, the truth and the life.” In the Bible, christians are told to imitate the way, the truth and life with hope and trust of following Jesus Christ and being transformed by the Holy Spirit into the way, the truth and the life. Again, christians are given a living example of what the way, truth and life looks like on earth and we are given explicit instructions on how we are to imitate Jesus. In Matthew 5, Jesus says: “So be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” In Matthew 19, Jesus also says “If you wish to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have a treasury in the heavens, and come follow me.”

In the the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, we are introduced to Matthew who was one of the 12 chosen apostles who followed Christ. Matthew writes in his gospel that Jesus called all people to follow him and what following Jesus required. “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wishes to come along behind me, let him deny himself utterly and take up his cross and follow me.” It is abundantly clear in The New Testament that Jesus lived this truth and he taught that denying one’s self and laying down one’s life was the only way any man or woman could follow him in truth and life.

But Jesus, being aware of our limited minds, decided to make “the way, the truth and the life” as easy as possible for humans to understand by summing up all his teachings and the commandments into the following “And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your reason. This is the great and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the prophets depend upon these two commandments.” The Gospel of Matthew

In reading the New Testament, a nonchristian (and even a Christian) might be surprised to discover that christians are explicitly told in Colossians 3:17 “And everything you do whatsoever, in word or in deed, do all things in Lord Jesus’s name, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” It doesn’t require much biblical exegesis to understand that everything Christians do means EVERYTHING christians do are to glorify God and give visible proofs of our faith and our love for him, for ourselves and for our neighbors- including but not limited to how, why, when, where and what we eat, drink, spend, buy, sell, work, play and worship.

Being a christian and being around christians most of my life, I know that we say we do this or we “try” to do this but do we -really? Søren Kierkegaard recognized in the early 19th century that one would be very confused if they were to read the Bible and compare even the smallest bit of Truth with those who claimed to know Christ and follow him. Søren would probably go on to say that christians would confuse themselves if they were to read the gospels and compare themselves with the Truth. Sadly and thankfully, this is what happened to me- and after reading the Bible I wasn’t so much confused by truth, but I was confronted by The Truth that 99% of the “truth” I quoted was nowhere in the Bible and 0% of my self-righteous consumer mentality and idolatrous and gluttonous lifestyle was evident in Jesus Christ.

Like Søren, I would say that “christians” who speak the loudest about truth and who have the biggest platforms are actually not speaking for Truth or speaking the truth- because if they did, they would, like Jesus, be persecuted, ostracized and possibly killed. Today, you’d be hard pressed to find a christian in America who is persecuted, ostracized and at risk of being killed for speaking or imitating “The Truth.” I am not saying that people do not quote truth but there is a vast difference between quoting truth and speaking truth, and there is still a greater difference in speaking truth and living it out. According to both Jesus Christ and Søren Kierkegaard, one who speaks truth and does not live it- does not know truth. Jesus went so far to call such a person “a white-washed tomb.”

More than ever, when I read The Bible, I am regularly found to be in violation of the basic teachings of Christ. Daily I must confess that I do not love God with my whole heart, mind, soul and strength and I do not love my neighbor as myself. Likewise, I can also confidently confess that I have never once thought about selling all I own and sharing it with my fellow christians or giving it to the poor. Strangely, I have been in several denominations that claim to take every word of the Bible literally but I have never been in a “church” that has taken our brother and sisters selling, sharing a living communally in Acts..literally.

So, given that we (christians) have leaped over Acts like a hot potato, how would we know ourselves or others to be christians? In Matthew, Jesus Christ says that christians would be known by their fruit: “You will know them from their fruits. Persons do not gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles, do they? So every good tree produces good fruits, but the diseased tree produces bad fruits. A good tree cannot bear bad fruits, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruits. Every tree not producing good fruit is felled and cast into fire. From their fruits, therefore, you will know them. Not everyone saying ‘Lord, Lord’ to me will enter into the Kingdom of the heavens, but rather the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and exorcize demons in your name, and perform many acts of power in your name?’ And then I will declare to them that: ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Both the Bible and history are full of stories of Christians who were witnesses of truth and were known for their good fruit which in Galatians is called the fruit of the spirit- “love, joy, peace, magnanimity, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, Gentleness, self-mastery.” A person with good fruit would visibly manifest the fruit of the spirit in not only their spirit, heart, mind, body and relationships with both creature and creation, but in their thoughts, words and deeds. Even more, we could rest assure that who we are, who we truly loved and what we really believed would be evident by our fruit to both christian and non christian by just listening to us and by just looking at us.

I know christians think that we look, sound and live differently than those around us but do we- really? Do we have the good fruit of the spirit or are our consumer lifestyles, our consumer mentality, and our allegiance to the monoculture made obvious by our fruit of gluttony and idolatry. Certainly, we could agree with the scriptures that deeds like gluttony and idolatry are visible and that they would testify to our spiritual condition, the motives of our hearts and to our relationship with God. So, if we christians are found to be known for our gluttony and idolatry, then wouldn’t it mean that we are… “They who exchanged God’s truth for a lie, and adored and worshipped the creation rather than the Creator.” Likewise, wouldn’t it also mean that we contradict the Way, the Truth and the Life we are told to “Imitate.”

(Perhaps, this is why I have never nor have I ever met a christian who sold everything they had and gave it to the poor or I have yet to meet more than a handful of “christians” who don’t talk, think, look and live just like every other consumer worshiping the same golden calf called consumerism. Don’t take my word for it. Would not our fruits or lack thereof prove whether or not we (christians) are just as as obsessed with making our kingdoms come and our wills be done on earth as anyone else?

It is interesting that all the time I spent in “church” and with the “church” that my idolatrous, gluttonous and selfish consumer lifestyle was never confronted by anyone. Unless, my consumer lifestyle interfered with tithing or it interfered with man’s most sacred and made up doctrines on church attendance, bad words, modesty, sex and drinking. Truthfully, I never understood why or how man had reduced the teachings of Christ to such trivial nonsense or how unbiblical they were until I read the Bible and I read Søren Kierkegaard’s Attack on Christianity.

The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. How would I ever get on in this world? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament.

I open the New Testament and read: ‘If you want to be perfect, then sell all your goods and give to the poor and come follow me.’ Good God, if we were to actually do this, all the capitalists, the officeholders, and the entrepreneurs, the whole society in fact, would be almost beggars! We would be sunk if it were not for Christian scholarship! Praise be to everyone who works to consolidate the reputation of Christian scholarship, which helps to restrain the New Testament, this confounded book which would one, two, three, run us all down if it got loose (that is, if Christian scholarship did not restrain it).” -From Kierkegaard’s Journals

At this point, you might be asking… what does all of this have to do with vaccines and masks. Well…only everything. In order to get to such a trivial thing as masks and vaccines, I needed to clarify the situation and lay the groundwork for this particular *deliberation.

With all of this in mind, I would like to use The Bible, particularly The Gospels, and not man’s paltry reasons or “christian scholarship” to talk about masks and vaccines to “christians.” Again, I have no intention of addressing the world and I also have no intention of presenting a reasonable argument based on data, research, science or even common sense. Instead, I am speaking directly to a group of men and women who say they believe in Jesus- the God-man who lived, died and was resurrected. Likewise, I am writing to “christians” who also say they read their Bibles.

(Even though, I really do not believe christians read their Bibles because I don’t believe it requires very much Bible reading or biblical literacy to realize that most christians are not obeying the most basic biblical teachings.)

But as I understand the most basic biblical teachings, it would seem (at this point) any argument against masks and vaccines would be nonsensical to a christian who has laid down their life and picked up their cross to follow Christ. On the other hand, a christian arguing against masks and vaccines would only make sense if they were not christians but consumers who believed themselves to be entitled to their consumer lifestyles that are void of Truth and Love but full, as you’d expect, of christian scholarship. It doesn’t require much awareness or knowledge on my part to make such a statement because it doesn’t take much to determine if my statement is true. The Bible is pretty clear that both christians and nonchristians would easily recognize christians by their love. Jesus said “34A new commandment I give you: that you love one another. As I have loved you, so too must you love one another. 35By this all will know you are disciples to me, if you have love for one another.” The gospel of John, chapter 13

Truthfully, I have yet to meet many christians who are known for their love or who are willing to consider if they do indeed follow and imitate the Truth. Even though, a life without love and truth would be pretty evident, as I have mentioned above, by the lack of fruit that grows out of love and truth. However, if we are void of the good fruit wouldn’t we be producing bad fruit- which is clearly the opposite of good fruit. I believe Paul calls this bad fruit the works of the flesh and he says: “Now what the works of the flesh are is obvious: whoring, impurity, licentiousness, Idolatry, witchcraft,n enmities, strife, jealousy, rages, rivalries, dissensions, heresies, Envies, inebriations, carousals, and things of that sort, regarding which I tell you in advance—just as I have said in the past—that those doing them will not inherit God’s Kingdom.”

With such a dire warning to christians, wouldn’t we make sure to examine our fruit and the fruit of our christian brothers and sisters to see if we have as Paul wrote in Romans: “exchanged God’s truth for a lie, and adored and worshipped the creation rather than the Creator who is blessed unto the ages; amen.”

Wouldn’t just a quick examination of ourselves reveal what happens when we follow a lie and not the Truth? “Thus God delivered them to the passions of disgrace;…And, as they did not deem it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God surrendered them to a reprobate mind, to do indecent things, Having been filled with every injustice, wickedness, avarice, vice; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, boorishness; whisperers, Slanderers, haters of God,c licentious, overweening, braggarts, contrivers of evils, defiant of parents; Witless, faithless, ruthless, merciless—Though knowing God’s decree that those who do such things are deserving of death, they not only do them, but give approval to those engaging in these same practices.” The book of Romans, The Bible

Are we not able to see that if we do not follow The Way, The Truth and The Life, then we have choosen to follow His opposite – The Accuser. Even though we have been warned, “If anyone teaches otherwise, and does not consent to these sound words, which are those of our Lord Jesus the Anointed, and to the teaching that accords with piety, He has become deluded with arrogance, understanding nothing; but he has a sickness for controversies and verbal battles, from which come envy, strife, blasphemies, wicked suspicions, Constant quarrels by men of corrupt mind and deprived of the truth, supposing piety to be a means of gaining a livelihood. [Withdraw from such men.] But the great profit is piety accompanied by self-sufficiency; For we have brought nothing into the cosmos, neither obviously can we carry anything away; But, having things to eat and things to wear, we shall be satisfied with these. But those who want to be rich are falling into temptation and are ensnared by many witless and injurious longings, which plunge human beings into ruin and destruction. 1For the love of money is a root of all evils, in reaching out for which some have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves about with many pains. But you, O man of God, flee from these, and pursue righteousness, piety, faithfulness, love, endurance, gentleness. Struggle in the good struggle of the faith, lay hold of the life of the Age, for which you were called and for which you confessed the good confession before many witnesses.” 1st Tmothy 6, The Bible

Again, I am no biblical scholar but in reading just the New Testament for myself, I believe it would take the tiniest amount of biblical understanding to make the argument that anyone who has “surrendered” his or her life to Christ would most likely have no problem surrendering his or her rights for his or her brother or sister, especially as we attempt to live out the command to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Even more so, wouldn’t it be completely out of character for a person known for turning the other cheek, giving his cloak when asked, walking extra miles and loving his bother or sister as oneself-all of a sudden refuse to wear a mask or even get a vaccine if it “might” mean his neighbor’s life could be saved? Have you had a chance to read Acts and how christians were being taught why they should abstain from eating the meat sacrificed to idols- so as not to cause a brother to stumble.

“15For, if your brother is caused distress on account of food, then you are no longer proceeding in accord with love. 16So do not let the good be blasphemed by you. 17For the Kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but rather justice and peace and joy in a holy spirit; 18For the one who slaves for the Anointed in this is delightful to God and approved of by human beings. 19Let us therefore pursue the things belonging to peace and the things belonging to mutual edification. 20Do not ruin the work of God for the sake of food. Indeed, all things are pure; yet for the one who eats it is something evil because a stumbling-block—21A good thing neither to eat meat nor to drink wine, nor anything upon which your brother stumbles [or is caused to fall or is weakened]. 22The belief you hold to for yourself, hold it before God. How blissful he who does not judge himself by what he approves of.” Romans14, The Bible

I have to ask, “Have you ever read Acts?” I know, christians do not read Acts because it clearly shows how christians lived in the world after they became christians and no christian in their right mind would read Acts twice-unless they had somehow found a way (christian scholarship) to easily shuffle to the other side of the road and avoid the messy confrontation with The Word. Consequently, I wonder if this is the reason why I have met very few christians who were willing to be deprived of their own comfort, security and control, let alone suffer injustice.

But… here the Holy Spirit goes again to confront our unwillingness to love our neighbors as ourselves and suffer injustice. “Why not instead suffer injustice? Why not instead be deprived? Rather, you practice injustice and you deprive, and you do this to brothers. Or do you not know that the unjust will not inherit God’s Kingdom? Do not be led astray. Neither the whoring, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor feckless sensualists,h nor men who couple with catamites,i Nor thieves, nor the acquisitive, nor drunkards, nor the vituperative, nor the rapacious will inherit God’s Kingdom. And some of you were these very things; yet you were washed—yet you were made holy—yet you were made upright in the name of the Lord Jesus the Anointed and by the Spirit of our God. All things are lawful to me—but not all are beneficial. All things are lawful to me—but I will not be overpowered by any of them. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods—but the Lord will reduce both it and them to nothing.” 1 Corithians 6:7-11, The Bible

I know, I know this is more Bible than we have read in years but let’s try to choke down just one more passage from The first letter of John, Chapter 3:

1See what kind of love the Father has given us so that we might be called children of God—and we are. Therefore the cosmos does not know us, because it did not know him. 2Beloved ones, now we are children of God, and what we shall be has not yet become apparent. We know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3And everyone who has this hope in him makes himself pure, just as that one is pure. 4Everyone who commits sin practices lawlessness also; and sin is lawlessness. 5And you know that he appeared so that he might bear sins away, and in him there is no sin. 6Anyone who abides in him does not sin; anyone who sins has not seen him, nor has known him. 7Little children, let no one lead you astray; whoever practices righteousness is righteous, just as that one is righteous; 8Whoever commits sin is from the Slanderer, because the Slanderer has been sinning from the beginning. For this the Son of God appeared: that he might dissolve the works of the Slanderer. 9No one born out of God commits sin, because his seed abides in him, and he is unable to sin, because he has been born out of God. 10By this, the children of God and the children of the Slanderer are made manifest: No one who does not practice righteousness is of God, nor anyone who does not love his brother. 11For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning: that we should love one another, 12Unlike Cain, who was of the wicked one and slaughtered his brother. And for what reason did he slaughter him? Because his works were wicked, but his brother’s works righteous. 13Do not be amazed, brothers, if the cosmos hates you. 14We know that we have passed over from death into life, because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. 15Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has the life of the Age abiding in him. 16In this we have known what love is: that that one laid down his soul on our behalf; and we ought to lay down our soul on behalf of our brothers. 17But should anyone have the means of livingl in this cosmos, and see his brother in need, and inwardly close himself off from him, in what way does God’s love abide in him? 18Little children, let our love be not in talk or on the tongue, but in action and truth. 19By this we shall know that we belong to the truth, and assure our heart before him: 20That, if our heart should offer condemnation, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21Beloved ones, if our heart offer no condemnation, we have confidence toward God, 22Because we receive from him whatever we might ask, because we keep his commandments and do the things that are pleasing in his sight. 23And this is his commandment: that we should have faith in the name of his Son Jesus the Anointed, and should love one another, just as he gave us a command to do. 24And whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in that one; and by this we know that he abides in us: from the Spirit that he has given us.

At this point, I have to ask if our unwillingness to wear masks and take vaccines does not just reveal our lack of love for our neighbor, our refusal to lay down our life for our neighbors but our lack of love for Christ. I keep thinking if christians did follow the Way, the Truth and the Life of Christ- then we would not be here- arguing over masks, vaccines, politics and demanding our kingdoms come and our wills be done. Instead, we would be obeying what is clearly taught over and over again in the scriptures, “Know this, my beloved brothers: Let every man be swift to listen, slow to speak, slow to indignation; For a human being’s indignation does not accomplish God’s justice. Hence, putting away every defilement and surfeit of evil, receive in gentleness the implanted word, which can save your souls. And become doers of the word, and not only hearers, thus deluding yourselves. Because, if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing the face he was born with in a mirror; Because he has observed himself and gone away, and has immediately forgotten what he was like. For the one who has gazed intently into the perfect law, which is one of freedom, and has stayed there next to it, becoming not a forgetful listener but instead a doer of work—this one will be blissful in what he does. If anyone fancies himself religious while not bridling his tongue, but instead deceiving his own heart, his religion is empty. Pure and undefiled religion before the God and Father is this: to watch over orphans and widows in their affliction, to keep oneself unstained by the cosmos.” James, The Bible

*deliberation “There is an additional distinction not mentioned in the repeated opening preface sentence but worthy of notice here in order to clarify the conception of “upbuilding discourse” and to indicate its relation particularly to Works of Love in the second period of writing. In a journal entry from 1847,20 Kierkegaard points out “The Difference between Upbuilding Discourse and a Deliberation.” A deliberation [Overveielse] does not presuppose the definitions as given and understood; therefore, it must not so much move, mollify, reassure, persuade, as awaken and provoke men and sharpen thought. The time for deliberation is indeed before action, and its purpose therefore is rightly to set all the elements into motion. A deliberation ought to be a “gadfly”; therefore its tone ought to be quite different from that of an upbuilding [opbyggelig] discourse, which rests in mood, but a deliberation ought in the good sense to be impatient, high-spirited in mood. Irony is necessary here and the even more significant ingredient of the comic. One may very well even laugh once in a while, if only to make the thought clear and more striking. An upbuilding discourse about love presupposes that people know essentially what love is and seeks to win them to it, to move them. But this is certainly not the case. Therefore the “deliberation” must first fetch them up out of the cellar, call to them, turn their comfortable way of thinking topsy-turvy with the dialectic of truth.” Soren Kierkegaard

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