‘Self-expenditure’ – including getting the COVID-19 vaccine – is the call of the faith
More than one hundred years ago, Judson W. VanDeVenter and Winfield S. Weeden collaborated to write the Christian hymn, “I Surrender All.” The lyrics capture a most fundamental lesson of what it means to be a Christian. A song of commitment, the first verse claims, “All to Jesus I surrender, All to him I freely give; I will ever love and trust him, in his presence daily live.”
As one examines the response of American Christianity to the Covid-19 Pandemic, one must wonder, do believers mean it when singing it? And, even if it isn’t included in modern worship style changes, do Christians grasp the message as revealed in scripture? Paul wrote, “Sisters and brothers, I beg you through the mercy of God to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Don’t conform yourselves to this age, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds, so that you can judge what God’s will is – what is good, pleasing and perfect” (The Inclusive Bible, Romans 12:1-2b).
Believers must surrender all if their Christian witness is going to be effective – especially in times of tragedy and terror. Unfortunately, it is demonstrably true that this is presently not the case. One in four White evangelicals have no intention of getting the vaccine – the single most important step they can take to protect themselves and others. That is, they are unwilling to “Surrender All” for the greater good.
Certainly, this is not a blanket indictment of all pastors and congregants/parishioners. Still, enough are being stiff-necked that a response is warranted.
A Biblical Response
Nehemiah offers Christians a step-by-step process on how to respond to disaster in a righteous, godly manner. The first step, prayer, seems to be the hardest, especially when we are overwhelmed with heart-wrenching scenes and repeated appeals for help. So, acknowledging the power of unified prayer is the first challenge facing the Church. Indeed, it is the proper first response in discerning how to care for those in need. For Christians, a major challenge is uniting in one accord first.
When Nehemiah received the promises of key leaders to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, the ink was not even dry before the grumbling started. He faced unrelenting opposition to holding them accountable for their word (Nehemiah 4:1-23; 6:1-14). He was faced with the challenge of leaders that had not counted the cost for themselves nor had sought wise counsel before they committed to the task.
How does this biblical account offer guidance to Christians in responding to the pandemic and other disasters?
First, remember promises of the faith in navigating troubled times. We are to exhibit certain characteristics, regardless of the circumstance, including love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Paul also pointed to the characteristics of love (1 Corinthians 13). It is these characteristics – patience, kindness, humility, truthfulness and hope – that we must embrace.
The Sacrament of Service
Oswald Chambers characterized the Christian life as “the sacrament of service.” In his book, “My Utmost for His Highest,” Chambers wrote, “Our Lord’s teaching is always anti-self-realization. His purpose is not the development of a man; His purpose is to make a man exactly like himself, and the characteristics of the Son of God is self-expenditure.”
Chambers added, “It is time now to break this life, to cease craving for satisfaction and to spill the thing out. Our Lord is asking who of us will do it for him.” Chambers effectively leaves us with only one answer – “I will!” That is the challenge and opportunity that is before us in the times in which we live.
So, if you have not yet, surrender your will to the greater good. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, and take other precautions as appropriate.
Learn more about the work of Grassroots Appalachia of “Providing Guidance in Community Preparedness and Disaster Management” by visiting our website.