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A Look At “Pastoral Overreach, An Ethical Issue And Our Border Crisis, Part 1”

In this and the following edition of “Theology & Culture”, we are going to discuss some issues that are front and center in our world, both within and outside the church. I will be sharing with you my perspective from Scripture on some issues that as a pastor I feel the need to address. Please bear with me as we tackle some of these things.

Covid-19 and all that surrounds it has been tough on everyone. There are various opinions on everything connected to it. As a pastor, I do not believe it is my job to tell someone whether they should get vaccinated or not. I will support your choice either way. I also appreciate the fact that it has not been a point of division at Oakridge. That speaks volumes toward you as a church.

I have my views on this subject just as you do. My prayer is that we will handle things as God leads us to. One of the things that bothers me is when pastors tell their congregations some of the things that I have heard. One stated that there is “no credible religious arguments” that should stop someone from getting the vaccine. Another told their congregation that if someone came to the church service wearing a mask he would tell them to remove it or leave.

I think in some cases, pastors can overstep their authority as the shepherds of the church. We are, of course, to teach the Scriptures, and when things are clear on a topic or doctrine, state it. In some cases, we apply the texts of Scripture to our lives, but only after explaining to the best of our ability what the passage of the Bible is saying. Of course, some of a person’s approach and application in teaching the Bible is built on a philosophy of how they do ministry. My method is simply different than the two pastors illustrated above.

For example, it could be argued there is “no credible religious argument” against getting a flu shot. Or taking aspirin. My illustration may be trivial, and I do know how nasty a virus Covid is (having had it) but I would not feel comfortable as a pastor going down the road of using Scripture to press an issue when it does not clearly speak on that topic. There may be Biblical principles we can look to for guidance, but some things I would be careful to be dogmatic on.

In response to there being no “religious argument” it could be said that God wants us to use wisdom (the Book of Proverbs) in the decisions that we make. We are to do our homework and seek God’s leading for us regarding what we should do as individuals and families.

I would also be careful in our use of Philippians 2, a passage that does indeed tell us to think of others as well as ourselves. This text has been used as a club to shame people who have differing views on some of the issues we are contending with in our world today, including Covid and our responses to it.

Let me explain. This Scripture has been used by some that I have read and listened to as a way of accusing other believers of not caring for people as they should. I have heard those who chose to be vaccinated or not or believe in natural immunity, use this passage to try to make someone feel convicted if they made a decision that was opposite of the one noting this passage of the Bible.

To be consistent in how we see the text, though, it could just as easily be argued that wherever you fall on the issue, putting others first means you also should respect the decisions that others make that may not line up with what our choice was regarding whether to get a shot or not, or what our view is on natural immunity.

To assume someone does not care about others because they have come to a different decision than us, is to claim to know the person’s heart. My point is that we need to love each other regardless of the choices people make. Let us move on to a couple of other topics in this blog.

I want to note that some of the topics we will be writing on, have written on, have taught on or will teach, have clear Biblical support. For example, when it comes to the issue of gender, God is clear - there are two, male and female (Gen. 1; Matt. 19). The reality of this does not change simply because someone chooses to identify themselves differently than God made them. God has in fact defined for us what we need to know on this very important area of life.

A person’s DNA determines their gender. People who struggle with who they are (gender wise) actually make up a very small percentage of the population and most outgrow this inward battle over time. But with culture working hard to cause confusion over this, trying to make it appear normal to question who we are, we as believers need to teach what God says about gender and help our kids and others celebrate who our wonderful Creator has made them to be (Psalm 139:13-18).

And finally, as we finish up this edition of “Theology And Culture” I want to spend some time on one other issue that is dividing our nation. As we know, the government is pushing hard on individuals with their vaccine mandates and other demands. I have my own personal thoughts on this, but there is also a huge crisis that has been ignored by the incompetent (yes, I used that word) group running this country.

While pressing American citizens to bow to all kinds of ultimatums, thousands of people are pouring across our Southwest border. There is no one being tested for Covid, illegal drugs are streaming into our country, human trafficking is a major problem at the border, and our government is missing in action when it comes to the crisis at hand.

In fact, they have spent time deriding the Border Patrol agents who are overwhelmed and unsupported, and have even misrepresented and lied about them regarding their treatment of the crowds they are dealing with.

I say this to lead up to the following - Immigration is not wrong in itself. In fact, America is rooted in the fact people came from other countries seeking freedom. But even at our church, the German families who came here after World War 2 became citizens or a part of who we were as a nation. They went through a process. I respect them for doing so. What we see down South is a disaster.

The Bible deals with how nations should handle those who come into their lands. Though these texts are written specifically to Israel, there are principles to consider. The word that is used in passages such as Ex. 22:21; Ex. 23:9; Lev. 19:33 and Deut. 10:18 is “sojourner.” There is a need to show mercy and compassion to those in need, including those from other countries, but there is also a right approach to handling this hot topic.

A “sojourner” in the OT world was, as Wayne Grudem points out, “known to the host country and given permission to enter.” There are passages that use other words and speak to this topic as well and we will tackle them at another time. But I think the point is clear.

There is a right and wrong way to handle people wanting to come to America. There is nothing unethical with expecting those who are part of a country to have to be vetted, interviewed, and asked to follow the laws we have on the books for those wishing to live here. Asking them to obey the government (Romans 13) and go through the proper channels is not being racist or uncaring. It is using wisdom.


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