A few weeks ago I read an article by Pastor Keith Marshall. In that article he reflected on the question he’s been asked several times: Is it right for Christians to claim religious exemption when public health is in jeopardy? That question these days is focused on wearing masks and getting Covid–19 vaccinations. After sharing several scripture passages that inform his beliefs, he states that being a Christian does not exempt one from doing what is right when public health is in jeopardy. That includes getting a Covid vaccine and wearing a mask. He states that, in fact, claiming a religious exception as a Christian is taking the Lords name in vain.
To be upfront, I share his beliefs. I also believe that these and other scripture passages speak to other choices in our lives. Over the next few weeks I will be looking at the scriptures he quotes in more detail. But first I’m going to take a look at a scripture passage he didn’t mention. The following passage is found in the Gospel of Mathew.
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? Who is my neighbor? That is the question asked by the lawyer in the version of this exchange in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus replied with a parable.
But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’ Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
In this context it would be assumed that the man and the robbers were Jewish. Also it would likely be Jews traveling between Jerusalem and Jericho. The priest and the Levite should have felt compelled to help. Maybe they were afraid that the robbers were still close by. Did their self interest justify them ignoring the situation.
The relationship between the Jews and Samaritans was antagonist, to say the least. So why did the Samaritan stop and help, possibly putting himself in danger? Why did he take care of the man’s wounds when he was considered an enemy? Why was he willing to give of his own oil, wine, and money? Samaritans we’re not known to be rich. We can’t be sure what was in the Samaritan’s heart, but we do know that his actions were compassionate and selfless, even to a sworn enemy.
In not specifically Christian terms we would say he followed the “Golden Rule”: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Is this part of your belief system? If not, why? Do you profess to be a Christian? Do you believe that being a Christian allows you to ignore the needs of those who are different than you, who believe different than you? If you profess to be of another religion, does that permit you to do the same?
These questions can apply to many more choices we make in our lives other than wearing masks and getting vaccinated. This is especially true with so many divisions in our society. I’ll take a look at more of these choices in the coming weeks.
For now there is no doubt in my mind that masks and vaccinations mitigate the affects of Covid-19 and saves lives. Does believing in the “Golden Rule” compel you to do these things? Is your “freedom” more important?
I could quote many statistics about those affected by Covid-19, but let me leave you with these two. There are now about 170,000 children who have lost a parent or primary caregiver to Covid-19. Police officers are at least four times more likely to die from Covid than from a gun shot. These people are most definitely our neighbors.
Please stay on topic.