Guest post on sojournal.co.nz
I am not an emotional person. In the last 20 years of life, I believe I can count on the fingers of one hand the times I have wept. Not that I think this is a virtue, it just seems part of my temperament. But twice in the last week, I have been so upset – distraught even – that I have wept.
Vaccine mandates. Our government went back on its word and has issued a vaccine mandate for all teachers. This is my line in the sand. But drawing this line is crushing me for a number of reasons.
Firstly, I have worked as a teacher for a decade in a full-time capacity and many more years than that in part-time roles. I am totally invested in the school that I work for and have given my time, my energy and even my money to help that school thrive and flourish. While I am not perhaps the most inspiring, interesting or creative teacher, I love my students, and I think they know I am committed to them and desirous of their success. My ex-students keep in touch. This is the area of life that God has gifted me in. I can teach. I can’t build. I’m not physically strong. I’m not able to do techy things. I’m pretty ordinary really. But teaching I can do. And the government with one edict from their Lectern of Lies has taken my livelihood away from me.
Secondly, I feel devastated because I have a family to feed. Call me a traditionalist, but I believe that my job as a husband and father is to provide for and protect my family. I have a wife and six children who rely on me to provide for them and protect them. I need an income to do this. I have spent years building up my skill and income in this line of work so that I could raise my family and prosper. Now it looks to be gone. It could mean that I will need to sell my family home and move to another cheaper part of the country and seek to find some other line of work to learn and pursue.
Some people will think ill of me and some may even despise me for the sentiments that follow, but for those of you who are open-minded and have a heart, my prayer and hope is that you will be encouraged to stand with me. Many of you must wonder what is wrong with me. Why doesn’t he just get a little prick in the arm? What’s the big deal? Let me endeavour to explain. I am not an anti-vax person. In fact, in the case of this vaccine, my wife had been working away at me and encouraging me to get it. My thinking was: I’m not high risk, there’s no hurry for me to get it, I’m happy to bide my time and see if anything nefarious comes out about the vaccine. To be honest, it doesn’t seem like much of a vaccine to me, but I’m not convinced it’s dangerous.
The mandate changes everything. This is my line in the sand, and I pray that it is the line in the sand for many Christians and indeed all citizens, vaccinated or not. As a Christian, my theology of government is derived from the Bible and not from pragmatics or social convention. The Bible teaches that the state is responsible for the sword – for maintaining justice and protecting the innocent from the evildoer. It does not teach that the government has the right before God to forcibly put something into a citizen’s body with the threat of losing their livelihoods if they don’t. Each person is created in the image of God, and they are responsible for their own bodies before God. They need to be able to decide before God whether or not to get a vaccine.
Secondly, the Scriptures, as my friend and colleague Ethan pointed out to me yesterday, teach that it is an evil thing to take away a man’s livelihood. One of the laws that God through Moses gave the people of Israel stated that no one should ever take a millstone from a man as a pledge (Deuteronomy 24:6). The reason for this is that a man’s means of making a living ought not be taken away from him. In fact, the wording of this command makes it clear that doing so is akin to taking that man’s life. It’s like issuing a death penalty to that man. According to this Scripture, it is almost on par with killing him. And a government that is going down this line is not far away from the kind of governments that kill dissidents. People who are unvaccinated are not criminals. There is no reason for a state to take away their livelihoods. It’s outside their God-given jurisdiction, and it’s actually evil since it is against God’s holy law. To take an innocent man’s livelihood away from him is a serious sin. Our state government has crossed a line here. They are actively doing evil to the citizens they are meant to protect, so they have become disobedient ministers of God and will face his judgment. Scriptures attest to God’s care and protection of the oppressed who are innocent.
Thirdly the Bible teaches that it is an evil thing to neglect the role of conscience. While I am still working through the ethical complications of testing on cell lines that originally come from a murdered baby, which so many Christians give less thought to than they ought, I know others, friends and colleagues who cannot because of conscience get this vaccine. We ought not, for the sake of the convenience and will of the majority, force individuals to go against their consciences. This is a despicable thing to do. As Martin Iles puts it in this fantastic video:
“…a person’s conscience, basically, is a faculty through which they are convicted of God and by which they respond to God. And the state risks usurping the place of God in a person’s life when it coerces their conscience and injures their conscience, which, by the way, is a serious injury because it creates guilt and guilt has massive psychological burdens and impacts on a person. The state goes well beyond just legitimate authority and does real harm when it injures the conscience.”
At this point, some of you may agree with me about all that I have said, but encourage me to choose another hill to die on. It’s not a gospel issue. Why this hill? Because cowed people, and unfortunately Christians who ought to be brave, have moved from hill to hill over my lifetime making excuses that next time we will stand up to tyranny, or next time we will do something, but this time we won’t because it is not a gospel issue. How strange that a free people are running so willingly into the arms of slavery.
Well enough of the strategy of appeasement. It didn’t work out so well for Mr. Chamberlain did it? Peace in our time at the cost of slavery is not a deal I want to take. Besides, if we do not stand and exercise our courage in these small things, what makes us think we will have the courage to stand in the big things? Many of us wonder what we would have done in times past. Would we have supported abolition? Would we have hidden Jews? We automatically imagine ourselves on the side of right and truth. We think that we would never have kept silent. But my challenge to you all is that if we are so afraid that we won’t stand up to tyranny in these small things, what makes us think we would have the requisite strength of character and courage to do something when the stakes are much higher? This is our chance to exercise our courage and develop it further.
I do not want to leave my sons and daughters as slaves in the country I love. I want them to be free from government coercion. I hope that their future holds the ability to choose what they do for their livelihoods. I pray that they will have more freedom than I have and that the tentacles of the bureaucratic and totalitarian state will be poisoned and pulled away from civil society so they can live free, blessed and prosperous lives as they serve Christ.
So am I scared? You bet. I am concerned about how I will feed my family and what a great cost this decision will have for my wife and children. I am not a hero. I don’t love the spotlight but prefer to be in the background. I’m an ordinary chap and I just want to live a quiet and peaceful life (1 Timothy 2:2). I’m not a fighter. I never have been. I didn’t start this fight, but I’m not going to let them take another free punch.
There’s nothing special about me. But I do know and love Christ the true king who brings freedom to his people. Time and time again in history, God’s people have cried out to him against tyranny and stood up against the odds and he has rescued them. I pray that this may be the case now. Every day I pray that this government will be reformed or swept away by God for their pride and rebellion and willingness to put themselves in his place. I am praying that I do not lose my livelihood. But even if I do, I know my God provides. And I will be able to look my wife and children in the eye as a man worthy of respect and they will know that I am fighting for them and their future. And I will have taught my soon to be ex-students the most important lesson I will ever teach. So in the words of a much braver man than me, “Here I stand, I can do no other so help me God, Amen.”
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