Another note will follow next week on David’s fathering of Absalom and Amnon — to the effect that our own sins as parents keep us from dealing with those sins in our kids (so David’s passivity with Amnon leading to Absalom’s vengeance). It’s an incredibly instructive narrative.
I’ve mentioned I don’t watch the news, but I did last night, specifically President Biden’s sharp words to the unvaccinated. It was strange to hear a leader belittle and harangue millions of his own constituents. But not that strange. Whenever we’re convinced we’re on the moral high ground, we feel justified and compelled to disparage those who disagree with us. It goes both ways, of course. I’m vaccinated and I’ve been told by Christians that I’ve given in to the false narrative of the world, or big government, or Satan.
On these issues, the world is chained to a zero-sum game — in order for one side to win, the other must lose. Praise God that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is unchained (2 Tim 2:9), which is the only truth that matters.
Here’s what I mean: as believers, we don’t have to participate in the zero-sum game. We can live this moment, and all moments, teleologically. “Telos” is the Greek word for “end” or “consummation,” the ultimate thing we’re aiming for. Our ultimate purpose is to be faithful workers in the vineyard of God, bearing fruit through lives that both demonstrate and proclaim the love and grace of Christ. Circumstances are all but irrelevant to this, so Paul says things like, “if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom 14:8) and “for to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain…” (Php 1:21). Life or death, who cares. As long as both, or either, are about Jesus.
Here’s the practical outcome. When our hearts are filled with this larger, transcendent mission of bearing fruit in Christ, everything else — even death — takes an appropriately smaller role. This is why Jesus, when pressed on the abomination of paying taxes to the brutal imperialists in Rome, could say in effect: “whatever.” That whole bit of “show me a coin” with the image of Caesar on it was to say, “this coin bears Caesar’s image but you bear the image of God. Be about his business. Don’t get sidetracked by trivia like taxes” (Mk 12:13ff). Or masks. Or vaccinations. Your heart belongs to more important things.
My point is not that you have to get vaccinated — or not — but that you should make your decision and get over it. Learn to see your life in terms of the purpose of your existence. When you meet God face to face, he will not ask if you gained power over those who were trying to control you. He will not ask you if you successfully defended your rights. He will not ask you if they took your property, your livelihood, your family, your life. Many, many saints before us have lost all those things. All that will matter is whether, in all things, you were a good and faithful servant and gave him a return on his profound investment in you (Mt 25:23). Is that really what you’re about? Let’s get after the things that matter.
As I was finishing this, I couldn’t help but think of Henry Lyte’s great hymn (first and last stanzas).
Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave, and follow thee;
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shalt be:
Perish ev’ry fond ambition,
All I’ve sought, or hoped, or known;
Yet how rich is my condition,
God and heav’n are still my own.
Haste then on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer;
Heav’n’s eternal day’s before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission;
Swift shall pass thy pilgrim days;
Hope soon change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.