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Liberty, Opportunity, and Responsibility

Eugene Prewitt
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This message is a reflection on the division over COVID vaccines, and some Biblical principles that can guide believers in how to navigate their relationships with one another.

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Eugene Prewitt

Director, The Institute of East Asia Training (IEAT)

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Recorded

  • October 11, 2021
    8:00 AM
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Our Father in heaven, I ask you to bless this talk, that you’d teach me what to say and what not to say. I ask in the name of Jesus, Amen.

I’m speaking to you today from my last few hours in the great United States. My wife and I are headed today to Bangladesh, where we will be living. We’re moving from a land with more freedom to a land of less freedom. And if you live in the United States today and you think you don’t have much freedom, maybe you don’t have as much as you did yesterday, but try moving and see how that goes for you.

I want to talk today about liberty, opportunity, and responsibility. And of course, that’s about the virus and the vaccine.

By all accounts, COVID-19 has generated unprecedented interest in the tension between personal liberty and mutual responsibility. 

You have heard both:

My body is God’s temple. I am obliged to honor Him above all human authority and consequently, I have a right to liberty regarding what goes into my body.

No man is an island. When my choices endanger others, those choices are selfish and evil. If I put the needs of my body temple higher than the needs of others around me, in what sense am I imitating Christ?

And it is hard to argue with either of these conscientious statements. (Though, they do seem to argue with each other ad infinitum). 

Let me offer a few ideas that might serve to dial down the rhetoric.


My Words to My Anti-Covid-Vaccine Friends

I hear you. I don’t want the vaccine either. It is certainly not likely to help my personal health. Nor is it likely to make me safer to those around me. I have already a natural immunity to several strains of covid.

And I personally hate needles. And I have significant thoughts about the shortness of the period over which we have been gathering data on the long-term effect of these mRNA vaccines.

But just a few weeks ago, my wife and I got the second shot of the jab. And here is why: the opportunities it opens for me to minister to various places in the 10-40 window are worth more than my life. Yes, you read that correctly. My opportunities outweigh the value of a human life because they open the door for many humans to have eternal life. 

Your opportunities might outweigh your rights too. How valuable is your opportunity to minister in places that are closed to you if you refuse the vaccine? Consider this. 


My Words to My Pro-Covid-Vaccine Friends

Listen, let’s drop this business of condemning people for unintended consequences. 

I mean, Jesus is not responsible for the evil on this planet even if He does send rain and sunshine on the evil and the good. And you are not responsible for the drinking habits of the manager of the gas station where you fill up your motorcycle. 

The reason is plain. Our responsibility ends where our choices end. So while the unvaccinated may be exposing themselves to significant risk, they are neither suicidal nor murderous. Instead, they are taking a calculated risk to themselves because of the values that they hold. And for all you know, they may be more careful than are you to not spread or shed the virus. 


My Words to Both Camps

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty. And that liberty has always been a boon most especially to minority opinions. 

This is what I mean. Liberty extends to the following: An atheistic professor, a lesbian counselor, a Jesuit doing polemic works for the Catholic faith, a young man advancing a communist agenda, a Jehovah’s Witness missionary, and a successful Mullah helping westerners revert to Islam.

But these six individuals are really doing much worse things that even super-spreaders of the virus. These persons are causing false gospels to proliferate to their own everlasting shame. They are causing young and unsuspecting persons to become hardened and lost.

Still, we advocate extending liberty to them. God requires us to do this. And if I wasn’t a conscientious objector, I would fight to defend their rights to promote their sincerely held opinions, however dangerous they might be.  

That respect for them, however, would not prevent me from vigorously opposing them by teaching and writing.

You might ask, “why should we extend liberty to them when they are destroying the eternal lives of our neighbors?” I answer, no one is qualified to tell a man how he must worship God. Every person answers directly to God for his choices regarding worship and obedience.

“It is not the work of any man to prescribe the work of any other man contrary to his convictions of duty. It is right to give counsel and suggest plans. But every man must be left free to seek direction from God, whose he is and whom he serves.” – CM 27.3

When it comes to vaccines, the governments of the world find themselves in a bind. On one hand, they are obliged to make policies to promote public health (such as that corpses must not be buried near water sources, persons with Ebola must strictly quarantine, medicinal drugs must receive federal approval, homes in some areas must be checked for radon periodically to avoid dangerous radiation accumulating in the basements.)

On the other hand, the best of world governments feel obliged to interfere with life and liberty of the citizens as little as possible. 

And the laws of Moses show that God authorizes significant policies for defending public health. Israel had many rules related to sanitation (parallel to those of our health departments today.) And infectious persons were required to strictly quarantine, living ever outside of cities until health returned. Miriam’s prestige and power did not win her an exception to those rules.

As nations weigh these conflicting ideals of protection and liberty, let us be charitable in judging. Not all restrictions ought to be viewed as overreach. Honor to whom honor is due …is part of our moral duty to governments. And policies without teeth are not rules. So let’s not accuse our government of coercion when she threatens non-conformists to her health policies.


The Other Side

The topic of vaccines and mask mandates is just very complicated. I know good solid doctors on both sides of the debates. And as I like science generally, and health science in particular, I have taken a careful look at the data.

And as I said, it is complicated. Cases for masks can be made sensibly. And a case can be made for the health benefits of unmasked respiration. Cases can be made for and against ivermectin. And cases can be made for vaccine mandates. And better cases can be made, I think, for vaccine freedom. 

But you don’t need me to think for you.

And that is where Romans 14 comes in. There God bids us be gracious to each other when we differ regarding “doubtful” questions. We are to be sweet and understanding despite our deep feelings and differing-yet-passionate views.

“Let each be fully persuaded in his own mind,” the passage says, since we each answer to God personally. And for that reason, I should give you room to serve him how you think best. And you should give me the same. And the government may not give any such grace at all.

You see, Romans 13 and 14 relate to each other just this way. First, we respect God and do what He says. Then we respect Caesar and do as he requires. Then we respect each other and receive each other as friends and brothers despite our differences on “doubtful” subjects. These three steps, outlined in those two chapters, would free the church today from much difficulty.

So if you don’t get vaccinated and do end up in ICU, I will care for you no less than if you ended up there as a vaccinated person.

And if you do get vaccinated and publish the fact, I will suppose that you are a faithful service of Christ, and not a dupe of the beast preparing for the ominous mark.


The Global Elites

On that last point, preparing for the Mark, let’s settle a few more things:

First, the ninth commandment forbids us to falsely accuse even evil persons. We are not at liberty to gossip about fiends. Exodus 20:16

Second, God places the men that He chooses in the thrones of the world’s power-brokers. See Daniel 4:17, that God puts the basest of men on the thrones of this world.

These two ideas ought to be of sufficient authority to prevent us from sharing any such rumor as that the “global elite” are seeking to depopulate the world, via the vaccine or by chemtrails, or by any other means. The bar for passing on accusations is set very high. Only witnesses may testify. And as God established the heads of state that bear rule, we don’t want to criticize them unfairly.

I’ve heard the word “sheople” recently as a word for persons who don’t believe that massive death is soon to come on the vaccinated. And the word has value even if the application is erroneous.  People do seem to be following others blindly, and more so recently. So if you perceive that such blind following is happening all around us now, I understand you.

But be careful how you connect the current craziness to the future crises. They differ substantially and fundamentally in the most important way:

The final crises parts men over a ‘Thus Saith the Lord’ versus a ‘Thus Saith the Church.’ The Lord says, “Remember to keep the 7th day holy.” The church says, “keep the 1st day or suffer.” 

The vaccine parts people over a “so says one eminent doctor” over “so says another eminent doctor.” It separates men quoting scripture from other men quoting other scripture. It separates persons who put scripture above tradition from others who put scripture above tradition. It separates sheep from sheep while the final crises will separate sheep from goats.

Yes, doubtful cases like the vaccine are unlike that final test. This one tests our love and courtesy at a time when the love of many is growing cold (Matthew 24:12-13). In view of the coming battle between God’s Words and man’s, this perplexity over human views should teach us to not take dogmatic stands on either side


Summary

With a great work to do, and a short time to do it, the church is in crisis now. And if the devil has his way, the church will be paralyzed by controversy just now when it has the most to do. Satan would have us divided over partisan views of medicine or strained opinions about world politics. 

But God would have us practicing Romans 13-14, serving Him, honoring the state, and giving gracious room to each other to think. We are to accept each other while refusing to accept arguing (Romans 14:1). 

And God would have us grow in love while Satan leverages frustration to build animosity.

God would have us sacrifice even our life for the good others. Satan would have us guard self as supreme and our rights above all values.

God will test us over His authority. Let’s not make any other tests for each other.

I’ve prepared these thoughts because I’ve seen friends parted over the vaccine, mandates that are likely coming, and issues that are happening. I’m convinced that I know people who love Jesus on all sides of the fences I’ve described. I think maybe you’re one of those. We must give each other grace and learn to love people who don’t think like us, and to serve people who don’t think like us. Maybe most importantly, to put the needs of others above our own rights, above our own needs.

Our Father in heaven, I’m asking that you will bless these words to forward your mission and to bring the Three Angels’ Messages to the planet in a time when travel is so restricted. Would you please guard the minds and hearts of people, to show us where we have fallen into tricks that would lower our love and increase our frustration. I ask for these gifts in the name of Jesus, Amen.

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