Theological Studies
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Masked vs the unmasked.

Vaccinated vs the unvaccinated.

Open business for economical health vs close business for physical health.

Black lives matter vs blue lives matter.

Republican vs Democrat.

Liberals vs Conservatives.

Biden vs Trump (as well as both of their supporters).

Federal government vs state government.

No matter where you stand on any of these, one thing seems to be for sure, when you leave your house you have crosshairs on your back..regardless of your view on any of the aforementioned issues, one thing people have begun to count on is, someone has a problem with your views, regardless of what they are, and therefore they have a problem with you. Rarely is there a gathering where these hot button items aren't brought up, and when they are presented it's with a hand rested on the gun in our holsters should it need to be drawn to make our point clear. Want to be a passive party? Sorry you can't, wear a mask or don't wear a mask and you're in trouble with one side or the other. Don't post something in support of the BLM movement on your Facebook page..well it's obvious you must be against it. Vaccinated and get sick? Your family members will love telling those who align with their views how your vaccines have failed you. Not vaccinated and get sick? Now people are saying you don't deserve any care you need because of your free choice.


Lines have been drawn.


I say versus (vs) intentionally. At one point I would have written Republican or Democrat, but now it's Republican vs Democrat. On all these issues it's vs. Like I said, lines have been drawn. Unity in our country is gone. We could rightly be called "the Divided States of America". How can I be sure unity is gone? Because when WW2 hit, the country put aside their squabbles to unite against a common enemy, the Nazi party. When the towers were hit on 9/11/2001, the country did the same and president George W. Bush even led the country in a unified prayer. When Covid hit? We all picked up stones to throw at each other and began throwing..and it hasn't stopped. Normally if compassion remains even in small measures, big events like Covid provoke that compassion in a way that makes it swell to overrule our squabbles. This time though, this time people are killing in hordes and don't take a second thought about it.


You know what really bothers me, that which I find the most concerning through all of this? That the church doesn't seem to look any different than the world. People are afraid to go into the world right now with everyone being so politically charged, unfortunately the same feelings are found in people when they contemplate going to they shy away from coming. The cross-hairs remain on our backs as we walk into the place of worship. Covid may have been the original "stay at home" reason, but now people avoid people, even at church, for fear of prosecution. Church which is suppose to be a place of refuge has not escaped becoming politically charged ourselves, ready to tell you what for, and even divide over issues like wearing a mask.


We thumb through the bible looking for scriptures that will back our beliefs that we may have solid ground to thump those across the isle for their perceived foolishness. Whether they are in the world, or in the church, we know what's true and therefore we have every right to exercise it.


If you're a champion of the truth, may I say, so am I. But if we look at your heart what will we find? When you hit people with the truth like Paul did in Romans 1-3, is it with the same motivation of love as his was? Are we hitting people with the truth with a goal to save or out of a sense of self righteousness? When we call out the liberals, and demand they be drug out into the middle of the street and beaten, do we share the same heart as God who said "do you think I take pleasure in the death of the wicked, no, but rather that they repent and live" (Eze. 18:23, 33:11). Our Father's heart is one who sits on the porch, watching for their loved one who liberally went to squander all that He gave them on loose living and prostitutes, and He does not sit there waiting to see them endure the consequences of their actions, but rather that they would come to their senses for their own good. He sits there longing to be gracious, and He waits on high to have compassion on them (Isa. 30:18). Tell me, is that your heart toward those you view are against the truth?


We sit on the porch too, but in our case we're watching and waiting for those "liberal bastards" to meet the demise of their own actions. We cling to Psalms like 35:8 that state "Let destruction come upon him when he is unaware, And let the net which he hid catch him; Let him fall into that very destruction". We rejoice in seeing President Biden fall down the steps of a plane because it resonates with our hatred for him. Hatred not for the lies Biden represents but for him the person. When he slips up his speech we are quick to make sure everyone hears about it, when he falls asleep we call him sleepy Biden as if the rest of us don't fall asleep when we should be staying awake. We see in the news how a lightning bolt hit the George Floyd mural and we rejoice and eagerly wait for God to also strike those "antifa activists" themselves.


Do you remember that time in the bible that Christ rejoiced over someone getting their comeuppance? Neither do I. Does it bother you when God doesn't act like we think He should on these things? In other words, does it bother you when God is patient with your "enemy"? If the answer is yes, then welcome to sharing a heart with Jonah (Jonah 4:1-2). God not only is patient with your enemy, but what did Christ do when people were brought before Him in the middle of the town square for a public stoning such as the lady caught in adultery? He forgave her sins (John 8:1-11). Picture the group you hate, would it bother you if Christ did nothing and let them entirely off the hook? If so, remember, Christ did that for you too.


May I say something bold? A Christian without love is a Pharisee. Christians who are well versed in the law of God, who know what is right and wrong and wield that without love and mercy have themselves become like the Pharisees. Truly Paul spoke rightly when he said "If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing." (1 Cor. 13:2). You may know right from wrong in depths that the "other side" doesn't, but without love, you have become nothing more than a "noisy gong or clanging cymbal (1 Cor. 13:1) and you're not doing any good (1 Cor. 13:3).


One advantage Paul said the Jews had over Gentiles was they were given the ordinances of God (Rom. 3:2, 9:4). God made known to the Jews what was right and wrong, what would make them prosper and what would bring them misery. Christians today have the Spirit working in them writing the law of God on their hearts (Heb. 10:16). Yet we seem to take this for granted, forgetting that if God hadn't done this work in us, we'd still be as bad off as anyone else in the world. Do you hate liberals? Guess what, without God working in your or at least your parents, you are one (Rom. 3:10-18, 9:29).


And as Isaiah said before:

“Unless the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed,
We would have become like Sodom,
And we would have been made like Gomorrah.” - Romans 9:29


Often when grace is preached in the church people think it's in lieu of truth, as if grace and truth were somehow on a teeter totter, that if one is enacted the other is sacrificed but that couldn't be farther from the truth. Scripture says Jesus came full of grace and truth (John 1:14) so we need to understand that both can coexist in full measure. We can hate the actions, the sins of people, and yet give undeserved favor (grace) to those who are sinning. When we fail to do the latter, then we're left looking like the Pharisees who were offended Jesus would even dare to hang out with tax collectors and sinners (Matt. 9:11), who were put off that Jesus would be seen with a Samaritan woman (John 4:9), the Pharisees who expended all of their energy exercising their self-righteousness and condemning others who weren't like minded.


I ask are we Christians much different than they?


I can't believe how many times I've been thrown under the bus recently by Christians and blood relatives who are aware my wife and I's choice to get vaccinated. I honestly didn't think anything of getting it. Don't agree with vaccines? I have no problem with that. I'm not to sure myself they are the right way to go but chose to because we were taking care of my mother-in-law who has terminal cancer. But why are you separating me and my wife from yourselves over this, drawing lines between you and us? And why-oh-why are you telling others in the church how we got vaccinated and rejoice that after which we caught Covid (which we did). What happened to having compassion on those in the church who are sick? In one ditch the liberals rejoice over conservatives dying from Covid for failing to get vaccinated, in the other ditch we have conservatives rejoicing when liberals who are vaccinated get sick, or experience any other perceived side effect of the vaccine... So I ask, are we Christians better than they? No we are not. We'd like to think we are, like the Pharisee we pray things like "God thank you that I'm not like them (Luke 18:11).


So you're free to not wear a mask, or not to get vaccinated and I'm not arguing with that. You are. But would you be willing to put aside your campaign against masks for the sake of your brethren? Or even for those whom are pushing the mask agenda that you may not give them cause to discredit the gospel?


For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. - Galatians 5:13-15


We've forgotten the weightier provisions of the law calling us to love our neighbors as ourselves and begun to point fingers, gossip, and tear at each other instead.. and the crazy thing is, we feel justified in doing it! Absurd it is to feel like when we take a stand on something that Jesus is right there next to us equally ready to thump the other person with our bible when we get done with it. On the contrary, I believe Jesus would say to us the same thing He said to the Pharisees who took traditions of men and made them paramount.


You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! - Matthew 23:24


Picture one of these Pharisees going for a jog when suddenly a gnat flies into his mouth, fearing the law which states you shall not eat the blood of any flesh (Lev. 17:14) he begins straining in order to puke it out. Jesus here is saying you worry about these smaller things but are completely missing the more important matters and are found in greater transgression because of it. Or in the words of Jesus they "have neglected the weightier provisions of the Law: justice and mercy and faithfulness" (Matt. 23:23).


Jesus was calling out the Pharisees for expending all kinds of effort to strain the gnat, the smaller issues at hand, and completely swallowing the camel as if it were nothing and not worthy of any attention. It's not that the smaller issues aren't issues, it's that these smaller issues have captured our attention and unfortunately the weightier things like love, compassion, mercy, the gospel, our witness, and our worship are all being sacrificed on the alter of masks, vaccines, and other things that by comparison are trivial. Many times Jesus crossed lines the Pharisees had drawn, hanging out with tax collectors, gentiles, and Samaritans, healing on the Sabbath, touching a leper, not washing His hands before a meal, forgiving the sins of an adulterous, all things that these religious elites of the day took offense at.


It's interesting how masks, vaccines, and the like we've become quite religious about. I say religious because regardless of what side you're on, it's become something you not only believe in but are willing to fight for. In the same way the Pharisees were "teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matt. 15:9). When we're religiously holding to teachings and the precepts of men, regardless of what side you're on, you've crossed the line to teaching something as if it had the regard that should only belong to scripture thus falling into the same error as the Pharisees here.


At this point in my article if you're wondering my stance on masks, vaccines, BLM movement, etc. then you're completely missing what I'm getting at. Those things do not hold equality with the weightier provisions of Jesus Christ, the good news, and in lieu of those things, masks, vaccines, etc become trivial and not a thing to behold at all. The Pharisees were rebuked because they performed religious acts but did not have God-honoring hearts. They concerned themselves with the outside, but inside they were full of dead mans bones and all uncleanness.


What's worse, not only are we missing the weightier provisions of the law ourselves, in our freedom we're using that freedom and causing others to stumble as well. Not only are we hijacking fellowship and worship time together that should be God-honoring and believer edifying in order that we might push these trivial matters, but when we exercise our freedoms we're causing those for whom Christ died to stumble. Paul writes this:


13 Therefore let’s not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this: not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s or sister’s way. 14 I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to the one who thinks something is unclean, to that person it is unclean. 15 For if because of food your brother or sister is hurt, you are no longer walking in accordance with love. Do not destroy with your choice of food that person for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; 17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 For the one who serves Christ in this way is acceptable to God and approved by other people. 19 So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another. 20 Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the person who eats and causes offense. 21 It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother or sister stumbles. - Romans 14:13-21


In our American culture eating of meat or not is not a hot button issue. But these verses are still alive and applicable today, perhaps now more evident to me than ever. Maybe not with meat, but consider the same context with the issues of masks for example.


(v13) In verse 13 Paul tells us to not judge one another anymore but rather make this determination, to not put an obstacle or stumbling block in your brother or sister's way. In other words, shift your focus from determining who is right or wrong on these trivial matters to focusing on what you can do to not cause your brothers or sisters in Christ in regard to these things.

(v14) Paul knows and is fully convinced that in the Lord Jesus nothing is unclean and therefore He is completely free to eat meat which previously most were in the practice of abstaining from certain foods, feeling those things were wrong. Even Peter struggled with this (Acts 10:14). Likewise many Christians feel fully convinced that they do not have to wear a mask and there's nothing wrong with that. But Like Paul said here, to the person who thinks it's wrong to not wear a mask, to them it is indeed wrong, regardless of your views or freedom.

(v15) If you exercising your freedom to not wear a mask knowingly causes another to stumble, or even one of the world to discredit the gospel, then you are no longer walking according to love. Paul is saying this is not a time to stand by your freedom to eat meat or your freedom to not wear a mask, but rather do not destroy with your choice the person for whom Christ died. This is a call to not be mindful of what your rights are, but rather to consider the conscience of your brother and sister and be willing to set aside what you feel entitled too for their sake.

(v16) Those who wrestle with your freedom to not wear a mask are indeed expressing their frustrations with it (I hear it daily) and as a direct result are not attending church, and to those on the outside, aren't even considering Christ because of us. Those outside the church are looking within and because of us are speaking against the body of Christ, the very thing Paul is warning us here not to cause. What is not on debate here is whether or not Paul had the right to eat meat, that has already been established. In the same way your freedom to not wear a mask is not on debate either but rather this is a call to "Respect what is right in the sight of all people" (Rom. 12:17) and "taking precaution so that no one will discredit us in our administration of this generous gift; for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of other people." (2 Cor. 8:20-21).

(v17) This is a call to look at this situation from an eternal perspective. To consider what you find important now and will it last to the hereafter. This was a challenge from Paul to those who flaunted their freedom to eat meat to consider if that is going to do any good in the end? Likewise what good does us taking a stand on the mask mandate have in terms of influencing the kingdom of God?

(v18) Paul is saying the person who abstains from meat, regardless of your beliefs on it being right or wrong, are doing so from a desire to be God honoring in their actions even if they are in error. This is acceptable to God who looks at the heart. Even if you believe their actions are in error because in Christ all things are made clean Paul is exhorting you to not attack their choice but rather recognize God Himself accepts this, therefore we should not hinder it. Not only is it acceptable to Christ, but Paul is saying it's also approved by men. Consider then, what does the culture around you approve of during this season of Covid spreading, gathering in large groups wearing masks, or not wearing masks? The answer is wearing masks. Regardless of how you feel about masks you can't deny that is what the majority of the world approves of.

(v19) This is a call to get your priorities straight. To not strain a gnat and swallow a camel (Matt. 23:24) but to consider what you are called to do, namely to pursue that which makes for peace and builds one another up.

(v20) Now Paul highlights how we have our priorities wrong. In our present times are we tearing down the work of God for the sake of not wearing a mask? He reiterates here that yes we have freedom, but to the person who doesn't believe they have the freedom (regardless if they are wrong, or you think they are wrong) to that person it is evil.

(v21) I just want to reiterate what Paul says here with a little emphasis, "It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother or sister stumbles." Yes God's word is living an active and that is as applicable today as the day it was penned. If you flaunting your freedom to not wear a mask causes your brother or sister to stumble, you're in violation of what is good here according to Paul.


How do you feel about circumcision? In America it's a cultural norm for men to get circumcised before we're even aware of what's going on. But what if that wasn't the norm. With how much people are willing to stand and fight on these mask and vaccine issues, I can only imagine how much we'd stand and fight if someone was going to force us against our will to get circumcised. People complain about masks making it difficult to breath, etc. but man how much more willing I would be to wear a mask before having part of my penis cut off. Someone holding a knife down there would suddenly make masks not seem so bad.


The Jews held circumcision in very high regard, they did so in error but they did so nonetheless. When Paul sent Timothy (a son of a Greek man) to the Jews, Timothy wasn't circumcised and even though there was no need for Timothy to be circumcised, since true circumcision is done inwardly by the Spirit (Rom. 2:29), yet because the Jews erroneously held this view, Timothy who was bringing them the gospel voluntarily was circumcised by Paul so that the Jews wouldn't discredit the gospel he brought on account of their view of circumcision, wrong as their view was.


If Timothy can do that, surely we can reconsider putting a mask on...


One last point. Division. Paul urges us in 1 Corinthians 1:10 "...that we all agree and that there be no divisions among you..." The bible warns us to stay away from those who are divisive and cause hindrances contrary to the teaching of scripture (Rom. 16:17). This means those of us who are leaders are to steer the flock away from those who are divisive or as some translations say away from those who "cause dissensions". In both cases it's referencing those who cause people to start dividing or breaking off into groups. For example the "anti-masker" groups, or the "anti-vaxxer" groups. Anything that makes a group separation from within a larger group is a dissension. We cannot be passive in the church to allow such people to take the wheel. The fact is, the moment this happens you began dividing the church. And a nation, house, city or church divided against itself cannot stand. We know this from scripture (Matt. 12:22-28) and we know this from experience. Whether it's the government, a sports team, or one's own mind, things have to work together if anything is to be accomplished. Even a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8).


As our nation is greatly divided against itself, now more than ever we have the opportunity to not resemble that nation, but to be a light in dark places (Matt. 5:14). To introduce people to God our refuge (Psa. 46:1); to Jesus who gives rest to all those who are weary and heavy-laden (Matt. 11:28-30), to be a place where those outside will know we belong to Jesus because of our love for one another (John 13:35), not because of our stance on lesser matters. It's easy to get into a shoving match when our eyes aren't on Jesus. We react in our natural ways as we did as a kid. They shove, we shove, they punch, we punch, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth (Matt. 5:38). Remember, if anyone had reason to cling to their rights it was Jesus. We expect people to conform to our ways or else no love for them... imagine if Jesus did the same with you, imagine if Jesus did the same toward all of us. Well.. He wouldn't have been born in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3) that's for sure. Talk about giving up your rights. If Jesus is willing to become flesh, be born in a manger, endure savageness at the hands of His "enemy" in every way because the joy of saving them compels Him (Heb. 12:2, Isa. 53:10) and all the while not considering or bringing into focus His equality with God ever... (Phil. 2:6) then if we're followers of Jesus, can we put on a mask? God set aside what His rights were to become one of us and meet us on our level so that He may bring us to His level to become like Him (Rom. 8:29). How are we ever going to reach one another if we don't cross over the lines?


For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. - Romans 8:3-4


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