Is it a sin to not get vaccinated?

An official in the Russian Orthodox church recently said that those who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus “are committing a sin they will have to repent for the rest of their lives.” According to this official, “The sin is thinking about yourself instead of thinking about other people.” Is it a sin to not be vaccinated against this current pandemic illness or against any other severe, widespread illness?

This question is not about vaccines, but about sin. To rightly understand what is sin it is essential to know who has the authority to declare something a sin. Things are not sinful because a church official declares them to be. No one- not a pastor, bishop, church, prelate or pope- have the authority to declare items as sin. Something is not sinful because a culture or society treats them as if they are sinful. Sin is only defined by the Word of God. Sin is violation of the commands of God. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” If the Bible says something is a sin, it is a sin. If the Bible does not give a direct declaration that something is a sin then great care needs to be exercised before condemn that thing as sin.

The Bible explicitly declares some things are sin. For example, “Thou shalt not bear false witness” and “Thou shalt not steal.” The Bible gives many principles which are then applied to circumstances. “Love you neighbor as yourself” is a command but the application of it varies from situation to situation. In one case it is loving to take a neighbor a loaf of fresh baked bread. In another case it is not loving to take a gluten-intolerant neighbor a loaf of fresh baked bread. The Bible does not contain any direct command about vaccination, illness or pandemics. Therefore, the Christian must examine the principles of the Bible to see which ones apply to this situation and then carefully work through how those principles apply in his life.

In some cases it is a sin to refuse a vaccine because of specific Biblical commands. The Bible commands Christians to obey their governmental authorities. A person who can be vaccinated and lives in a country where their government requires them to be vaccinated but refuses to do so that person is sinning by breaking the command of Romans 13:1. In some cases it is a sin to be vaccinated. If a Christian cannot be vaccinated with a clear conscience then it will be a sin for them to be vaccinated because of the principles found in Romans 14:23.

The most common Christian argument for getting vaccinated is the argument from love. The Bible is clear. Christians must love one another. No right thinking Christian can deny this command. The argument then is that getting vaccinated is loving to your neighbors, therefore, every Christian must be vaccinated. To not get vaccinated is selfish.

The problem with this is that it assumes the answer. It begs the question of the lovingness of being vaccinated. In applying the command to love your neighbor, the thing that must be proved is how getting vaccinated is actually and always showing Christian love and how not getting vaccinated is always selfish. A full discussion on the connection of love to vaccines is outside the scope of this article. This is a question too complex for the overly simple answers that seem to dominate the discussion. Christians need to be careful to give grace to those who reach different conclusions on this topic.

Christians must recognize that what something can only be declared a sin after careful and proper application of Biblical principles to a specific circumstance. Some things will always be sin no matter the situation. However, many principles can be applied in different ways in different times and situations. Christians need to be careful about absolutizing their application of Biblical principles. Sin is that which clearly violates the Word of God, not that which violates my application of the Word.

Does the Bible Condemn Homosexuality?

Yes it does. The Bible forbids homosexual sex without equivocation or exception.. In the book of Leviticus is possibly the clearest condemnation of homosexuality. “If a man lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.” (Leviticus 20:13)

Some protest that because this clear statement is found in the Old Testament it has no more application to today than the condemnation of shellfish. This kind of response can only come from one who has not seriously considered the teachinga of the Bible. Anyone who gives the Bible legitimate, unbiased study will recognize the Bible treats all forms of sexual immorality as always forbidden, while the dietary laws were temporary in effect. Further, the passage in Leviticus that forbids homosexuality also prohibits bestiality and incest. Few people today argue these are acceptable practices even though the Bible rarely mentions them outside the Old Testament law.

Those who still want to ignore the Old Testament commands find no refuge in the New Testament. Every time the epistles mention homosexual behavior they place it in a negative light. First Corinthians includes homosexuality in the list of works of unrighteousness which those who practice them cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. First Corinthians speaks of homosexuality euphemistically calling homosexuals “abusers of themselves with mankind.” Clearly, the New Testament does not consider homosexuality to be acceptable. The words of Romans 1 are even stronger. Homosexuality is the sign of God’s judgment on a people group. Those who reject God are given over to their own lusts. They work that which is not convenient and dishonor their own bodies. Women change the natural use into something against nature. Men burn with lust towards other men. Romans 1 calls homosexuality an unnatural act that disfigures and perverts the image of God in man. These two passages are more than sufficient to show that the New Testament clearly condemns homosexuality.

Some have argued that because Jesus did not condemn homosexuality then Christians today should not condemn homosexuality. First, consider the fact that the Jesus is God and the Bible is the Word of God. If the Bible condemns homosexuality then Jesus condemned homosexuality. Second, a strong case can be made that the New Testament commands against immorality are a summary of the Old Testament sexual prohibitions. When Jesus condemned fornication (Mark 7:21-23) He was doing more than condemning sex between two unmarried people. As a Jew Jesus understood the sexual laws recorded in the law of Moses. Fornication includes all the illicit sexual activity condemned in the law of Moses, which included homosexuality. Even further, if there was no condemnation of homosexuality recorded in the gospels the absence of a condemnation does not imply approval. Jesus did not condemn video piracy, but no one argues that He supports it. More seriously, Jesus never condemned slavery. Yet no one today seriously argues that Jesus was in favor of slavery.

Despite the efforts of those who teach otherwise the Bible clearly condemns homosexuality in all its forms. Despite the cultural demands that everyone support and celebrate homosexuality, the Biblical position is to condemn it. Homosexual sex is a perversion of God’s design for sex. It is a sign of the judgment of God on mankind. Homosexuality is a sin.

Is Galatians about Cultural Elitism?

Some modern Bible teachers have been teaching that certain passages of the New Testament are rebukes of racism or classism. The text in question is not the instruction of James 2, which is a direct rebuke of showing favoritism to the rich. Nor are they referring to the statements in Paul’s letters like Colossians 3:11, “Where there is neither Jew, nor Gree, circumcision, uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond, nor free: but Christ is all and in all.” These words are a clear statement that racial, national and social differences are eliminated in Christ. All believers are united together a one in Jesus. These truths are clear and are powerful opponents of racism and favoritism in the church.

However, some teachers have turned to other texts to decry elitism. Some have pointed to Galatians and Paul’s rebuke of Peter as a rebuke of promoting Jewish culture to the exclusion of Gentile culture. Paul is confronting Peter’s gospel error, not Peter’s cultural errors. Paul told Peter he was not acting according to the gospel. The climax of Paul’s argument comes when he says, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ.” Peter’s actions compromised the clarity of salvation by faith alone. Peter’s refusal to eat with Gentiles was not just a cultural thing, it was a gospel issue. Peter was forgetting that they Gentiles were saved by faith in Christ, just like the Jews. He was forgetting the Gentiles had received the Holy Spirit, just like the Jews. Paul rebuked Peter because his actions in refusing to eat with the Gentiles indicated that the Gentiles were not full members of Christianity, that Christ was not sufficient to save them, that they had to keep the law and become Jews to really be Christians. Paul’s rebuke of Peter is a gospel rebuke. It has cultural issues as the background, but Paul is not fighting for cultural differences to be set aside. Paul is fighting for the clarity of the gospel.

In a March 2021 Christianity Today article, Michael Rhodes taught that Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthian church was a rebuke of elitism and classism. He said, “The way they came to the Lord’s Supper reinforced socioeconomic divisions among them.” In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul confronted misuse of the meal associated with the Lord’s Supper. Apparently, the church in Corinth shared a meal together before taking the Lord’s supper. The Bible doesn’t tell us why they had the meal, only that some were going hungry because others were eating before them. Some had too much and others did not have enough. Rhodes said that the rich were being promoted and were establishing their elite status by going first in line, but Paul says nothing about social class in 1 Corinthians 11. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for their selfishness, not their elitism. He tells the believers to eat at home if they are hungry and to let others eat before them. He speaks of of their selfishness and callousness to the needy, not their promotion of the wealthy. Paul’s words have a direct application to how the church handles social and financial status, but Paul’s focus is teaching about class warfare. He is confronting the selfish, greedy, gluttony that will fill its belly at the expense of others.

The Bible clearly teaches that Christians must reject all forms of status oriented, external driven favoritism. Classism, elitism, racism and nationalism have no place in the church. Since the Bible condemns favoritism, what is the harm in teaching a Biblical truth from a wrong passage? The danger is in thinking we can use any passage of the Bible to prove a point. Every passage of the Bible has a meaning that was intended by the original authors. Any meaning drawn out of that passage today must be in accord with the original meaning. To misuse the Bible for a good purpose is still a misuse of Scripture. We have no need to misapply Galatians or Corinthians to make a good point today. God’s Word speaks clearly against racism, let’s pay attention to those passages.

How should I respond to a loved one who has just come out as a homosexual?

During this holiday season some Christian’s gathering with friends and family will be faced with the challenge of responding to a loved one who has recently come out as a homosexual. Responding wisely to this heart breaking news presents a lot of challenges for the concerned Christian who wants to help homosexual loved ones.

The Christian cannot approve of this sin, yet it is not always appropriate for you to tell them of your disapproval. Use wisdom and discernment to decide if you should speak to the person about their homosexuality. The deciding factor must not be that you have a strong desire to say something to them. Do not speak just because you want to get something off your chest. Speak if you are in a position where you are responsible to correct them or if they seek your input.

Be aware that any response you give short of applause and full affirmation will possibly be seen as unkind, hurtful or toxic. Be ready to show your love for the person though they do not respond well to your words. Be prepared for the possibility that they or another family member will explode in anger.

For many, homosexuality is not a sexual attraction, it is an identity. Often rebuke of the sin of homosexuality is viewed as a personal attack. Do not be afraid to express your love or to confront their sin, but do not expect them to understand that you can still love them without loving their sin.

Do not let the possibility of a negative reaction stop you from speaking truth at an appropriate time. However, a rebuke of homosexuality is not the first thing that needs to be said. Nor is a lecture in front of the entire family the best option. Seek a good time when you can speak personally to that individual so you can gently share Biblical truth with them.

Because the goal is to communicate God’s truth, prepare ahead of time. Study what the Bible says about personhood and sexuality. Don’t look for “gotcha” verses that will prove homosexuality is a sin. Look to develop a solid understanding of all the Bible’s teachings about sex and sexuality. Seek to think like the Bible so you can present from Scripture a Biblical worldview of humanity and homosexuality that will give a foundation from which the person can begin to turn from their sin.

Be honest. Speak the truth directly and lovingly. Do not attack the person, but address their actions. Do not call them names, belittle them or berate them. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29) Be careful to always speak in a way that edifies and reflects the grace of God. Do not make remarks about them or pointed statements calculated for them to overhear. Reject passive aggressivism and any attempt to manipulate the person. Be forthright, honest and kind. No matter how they may respond, always respond with gentleness. Remember that “A soft answer turneth away wrath.” (Proverbs 15:1) and “The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” (James 1:20)

Remember, you cannot change the person and changing them is not your job. Don’t try to do it. Speak truth to them in love, with boldness and forthrightness. If you are going to confront their sin, be prepared to help them through the long and difficult process of growing in obedience.

Often the one who declares themselves a homosexual has been dealing with these deep seated desires for a long time. They have given the matter a lot of thought and have struggled with telling their friends and family. Don’t expect all of that to be set aside because of a five minute conversation with you. Give them time to change. In the meantime, pray earnestly for their repentance and show your love to them in as many ways as you can.

Where did the different races come from?

With the current unrest in America, it seems good to repost an article from five years ago addressing the eerily similar death of a black man at the hands of a white police officer. If the response to the death of George Floyd is any indication racial tension has only increased in the last five years. Until we accept the Bible’s teachings about race, humanity and sin there will be no peace among men.

The one year anniversary of the shooting in Ferguson has just passed. In the twelve months since Michael Brown was shot, there have been numerous racially themed conflicts. Racial issues have been a regular theme of major news outlets. As a result, race is a topic on a lot of minds right now. The answers to racial tensions are not simple, but the Bible gives the sound foundation on which to develop a comprehensive response to racial conflicts. Whether it be an exchange of insults on a street corner or an exchange of gunfire in a crowded building the Bible gives the framework by which we can make sense of these difficult issues. One of the crucial Biblical teachings for a proper understanding of the races is what the Bible says about the origins of the races.

Race as we describe it is not something addressed often in the Bible. Most often Scriptures refers to nations, languages, tribes and cultures. In fact, the term “races” is a misnomer. Humanity is a single race with members possessing a variety of superficial differences, most easily seen in skin coloring and distinctive faical features. These variations are relatively minor and do not divide the peoples of the world into distinct races. The Biblical terminology is “kindred (tribe or family group), tongue (language group), people (community group) and nation (ethnic group)”. Though each group possesses clearly defined features, all are made up of descendants from Adam and Eve. Whether black, brown, white or yellow, all nations and peoples are members of the same family descended from the same parents.

If all humanity is one race that originated with Adam and Eve, where did the different ethnicities come from? The Bible offers a clear answer to the origins of the nations which are the source of the major “races” in the world today. The division of the peoples of the world is described in Genesis 10 and 11. Genesis 10 lists the sons and grandsons of Shem, Ham and Japheth. This chapter has been called the “table of nations” because many of the people mentioned are the founders of the major nations of the world.

Genesis 11 tells of the Tower of Babel. At the Tower of Babel God punished mankind for its continued rebellion against Him. His punishment included the confusion of languages. Before Babel everyone spoke the same language. At Babel God miraculously caused different groups to speak different languages. The punishment at Babel also included the scattering of the people across the world. The individual language groups traveled from Babel to settle in lands across the Middle East and eventually the entire world. The family leaders mentioned in chapter 10 appear to reflect the language groups created by God at Babel. As groups spread out, married and reproduced, the distinctive characteristics of the parents became more pronounced. The unique languages and hardships faced by each people gropu resulted in the distinct culture and heritage of the various nations. From the tower of Babel and the resulting hardships came the formation of the ethnicities we see today.