Grounded?

We may never know all of the facts, but corporate vaccine mandates were at least part of the issue leading to scores of canceled Southwest flights over the last few days. There’s too much from their own pilots on social media to deny this. Some in our own church family felt the sting of this last round of travel woes, as folks who’d flown far and wide had their fall breaks extended unintentionally. Grounded.

And, as of just this morning, both Southwest and American Airlines seem to be at war with Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Abbott has banned vaccine mandates throughout the state. But the Dallas- and Fort Worth-based air carriers say they’ll defy the governor, claiming the protection of President Joe Biden’s September directive that all private companies with more than 100 workers must require their employees to be vaccinated or take weekly COVID-19 tests. Let’s face it: there’s just nothing quite like 2021.

Now, obviously, I’m not going to take up or solve all of the controversial issues surrounding the coronavirus vaccines. I am not an anti-vaxxer by any stretch, though I respect everyone’s right to their own medical opinion. I am grateful for vaccines, and for modern medicine in general, but I am also very concerned about the preservation of individual liberties – especially when it comes to matters as personal as one’s own healthcare choices. I don’t think that public health and the preservation of freedom have to be at incessant war with each other. In terms of practical application, there may be tension between the two values at times – that’s both inevitable and okay – but I think that we can get through this. And, quite frankly, your personal decision about the vaccine is none of my business.

That being said, I’d like to offer a few thoughts that might help us contribute positively to the conversation. Lord knows we need some positive voices right now. Let’s be among that number, however small it may be if we can. What I’m going to share here is applicable to Christ-followers. I do not expect all citizens to analyze matters as I have here, and that is not my concern. I’m simply trying to shepherd well and to give you a few insights which arise from the Scriptures. (And maybe these principles extend well beyond COVID.) I’ve devised an acrostic in case that’s helpful for anybody.

Grace.

The very essence of the Christian life is that we deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24). We’re to be motivated more by love for neighbor than love for self. In that regard, you and I are exceptionally countercultural. At a bare minimum, loving another person involves wanting and seeking their good. As we seek the common good, we become willing to lay down our personal preferences for God’s glory. This heart-set has to underly all of our decision-making, all of our conversations, and all of our interactions in the public square. It’s simply who we are.

Responsibility.

We do not live in a spiritual vacuum, but we live in the light of our responsibility to God. So a profound and abiding sense of our personal responsibility marks our every thought, motive, decision, and action. We are far more concerned about what we ought to do than what our neighbor ought to do – at least that’s who we’re supposed to be. Feeling the weight of who I’m supposed to be is a far better place to start a healthy conversation than a sense of annoyed agitation over the poor choices of another.

Order.

Pandemic or no pandemic, vaccine or no vaccine, mandate or no mandate … God’s got this. The whole enchilada. I don’t have to fix the world. Lol.

Unconditional Respect.

We ought to be setting the tone for tolerance (and I’m not talking about the kind of “tolerance” that the world tries to pass off as tolerance). Since we believe that people are transformed by personal faith and that faith comes by God’s Word, we ought to want everyone to have the opportunity to communicate freely – so that Christ can be made known among all peoples. We should exemplify respect for others.

No Name-Calling.

People – all of whom share with us God’s image – are more complicated than demographics. When we carelessly label each other, we generate more heat than light. That’s not our job or our high calling in Christ. No corrupting talk (Ephesians 4:29).

Diligence.

We should study the relevant issues for ourselves. We should seek information from multiple sources, and from different political angles. We should stay prayerful before the Lord. We should season our speech, including our electronic speech, with humility. Our light-and-salt responsibilities require that we work hard and that we stay at it.

Excitement.

Yes, I said “excitement!” And I mean it. You and I already know how our story ends, and it’s an absolutely fantastic ending! We must not allow our primary identity to be found in the politics of vaccines – or in any other kind of politics. We’re gospel people, and it’s our great privilege to champion the best news in the entire world. Hallelujah!

Determination.

By our very nature in Christ, believers are “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17). Firmly established. Steadfast. Firm. Grace is who we are, and grace is where we stand. NO. MATTER. WHAT.

G.R.O.U.N.D.E.D.

Let’s try to support each other, even through real-life differing opinions and disagreements. Our positive Christian witness requires it. In his book Secret Power, D.L. Moody observed: “I have never known the Spirit of God to work where the Lord’s people were divided.” So, friends, in these turbulent times, let’s try to stay GROUNDED in grace and truth. I have a hunch that the more grounded we remain, the higher we’ll be able to soar.

Pastor Charles

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