Vaccines, Lockdowns, and Wisdom from Above
While I believe we as a church are living in unique and unprecedented times, in many ways we are not. The church has always had to deal with and work through difficult circumstances that assault its unity and undermine its ability to function. This is part of the tension of living simultaneously in two worlds: this world and the kingdom of God.
Throughout this COVID pandemic we as Christians have been bombarded by every “expert” under the sun, from the mainstream media to self-proclaimed freedom fighters on YouTube, to vocal Christian teachers (many good, others not so good), as to the right approach to the various issues facing our culture and the church during this time. We often learn from their all-or-nothing approach and start thinking that this is what comprises normal dialogue. There must be a better way that keeps a check on our spirit and promotes unity within the body of Christ.
My aim here is not to give an opinion or directive regarding vaccines or the extended lockdown, which has been extremely taxing on all of us. Nor is it to address the merits of the many various voices. Rather, I hope to briefly provide Biblical guidance as to what godly wisdom looks like as we deal with various opinions and views that exist within our congregation, to ensure we remain united. This oneness is a reflection of the unity of the Godhead, which is why Jesus prayed to the Father that his Church, “may be one … even as we are one … so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:21a, 22b, 23b).
Fortunately, God has not left us without His guidance. James tells us that
“the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (James 3:17)
Notice that God’s wisdom is like a fountain of goodness depicted in a cascading development of virtues. Each one flows from the other in a believer’s life. Let’s have a closer look.
Wisdom from above is first pure
Purity, linked to holiness, describes the very essence of who God is. Therefore, it stands to reason that all wisdom, true wisdom, must first be pure as God is pure. To be pure, believers must separate themselves from the corruption of earthly wisdom that is full of selfish motives; motives that create fear, control, and anxiety. God’s wisdom comes from a place of pure, God-glorifying motives that result in the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). We need to hear afresh from Isaiah who said, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
Wisdom from above is peaceable, gentle, and open to reason
In the current climate these words – peaceable, gentle, and full of reason – fall like rain on a parched and desert land. How we need this kind of wisdom today. Wisdom from above is not combative (Phil 4:5; Titus 3:2; 1 Tim 3:3). This means that we do not get angry or defensive even under provocation (Rom 14:10, 19). It means that we listen with understanding, we speak only when it uplifts the body of Christ and remain silent when it doesn’t. It means we are willing to listen to other people’s views. This doesn’t mean we have no convictions or do not hold firm opinions. Clearly, when core gospel issues are at stake, we are to be unyielding. But it means that we are not obstinate, but open to reason or a changed opinion.
Wisdom from above is full of mercy and good fruits
Fear, anxiety, and anger do not produce mercy and good fruits toward others. But wisdom that falls like pure, distilled rain from above results in love for others. This love results in practical outcomes. This is the wholesome and productive nature of genuine wisdom. How have you expressed such wisdom towards those whom you disagree with? In what ways have you ministered to them during this time? Has it borne the fruit of prayer, love, and self-sacrifice? Wisdom from above bears fruit in keeping with the gospel.
Wisdom from above is impartial and sincere
This last cascade of wisdom from above is a rare jewel in this divisive and segregated age. Just as God is impartial and sincere toward all people at all times, so the wisdom from God expresses itself in the same way. It is wisdom that does not have political, social, or racial lines. It is nonpartisan and is not hitched to any party or group, but it is anchored in Christ. Like God, it is genuine and sincere all the time.
As we begin to move toward opening up the church and meeting together again, let us work hard to display the wisdom from above. A wisdom that God is so willing to provide to all who ask (James 1:5). We are the church of Christ, which is a profound mystery to the world; a body, united in Christ, made up of different cultures, backgrounds, and opinions. May the Lord give us the wisdom from above and enable us to display to a watching world our oneness in Christ through our love for one another.