Posted: August 26, 2021
These are challenging times. COVID fatigue is real. And each of us has suffered significantly in one way or another. We thought the light was at the end of the tunnel when the vaccine was rolled out and when summer came, but the Delta variant and other factors seem to have derailed that hope. But I want all of us to know beyond a shadow of a doubt, God will get us through, period. I’ve said it before, now is the time to press together. And together, we will be more than conquerors!
I want to share openly and very transparently. I have struggled greatly on many levels since the beginning of my ministry here in the Columbia-Shuswap district and especially as a result of COVID. My struggle is not less or worse than any of your struggles, it is just different. I have agonized with some of you and prayed with many of you—but in some ways this week has taken my struggle and burden to a whole new level. There have been times throughout this pandemic, like many of you, I have felt like I was at a breaking point. This week was one of those times, to the point that I was nauseated with videos and information regarding COVID. But after much study, wrestling, and prayer I believe I have had the much-needed breakthrough I have been longing for. And part of that breakthrough included me finding the courage to openly talk about my convictions and fears.
The best way for me to get that ball rolling is to unashamedly state that I am not pro-vaccine and I am not anti-vaccine (even though at times I have had fears about the vaccine and I still don’t have answers to all the questions I have regarding the safety of the vaccine, especially long term). More on this later.
But here’s what I know and what I don’t know…
- I know that we as men and women do not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4)
- I know that God will give us each of us who diligently seek Him the wisdom and courage we need to honour Him in our bodies and by the choices we make (James 1:5)
- I know that we must be anxious for nothing and that we must learn to trust God with all our hearts (Philippians 4:6-7)
- I know that we must be kind and patient and loving (1 Corinthians 13:4)
- I know that we must be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)
- I know I can learn something from everyone
- I know that most of us depend too much on authorities—and that it is easier to let other people do our thinking for us
- I know that satan is the author of confusion (John 8:44; 1 Corinthians 14:33)
- I know God winks at the ignorance of both the innocent and the earnest seeker for truth (Acts 17:30)
- I know the freedom to choose and the freedom of speech must be championed and protected
- I know God can protect us from the side effects of the vaccine (Mark 16:18)*
- I know God can protect us from getting COVID-19 (and it’s variants) for those who are not vaccinated (Exodus 15:26)*
- But I also know that the health message must be foremost in our beliefs and practices no matter whether we get vaccinated or not
- I know we are rebellious, prideful, and stubborn at heart—and that the human heart is deceitfully wicked above all things, who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9)?
- The good news is, I know that with God all things are possible—especially the salvation of my corrupt human heart, mind, and soul (Matthew 19.26)
- I know receiving the vaccine is not the mark of the beast
- I know that it's not about who has more faith or trust in God—based on your choice to be vaccinated or not. You can have great faith and get the vaccine or have weak faith and not get the vaccine.
- I know that extreme positions on any side are destructive for God’s people and His work (Mark 3:25)
- I know that being right is also not the primary or lasting source of peace and joy
- I know we must love our neighbours as ourselves (Matthew 22:39)—and that this can be done in more ways than merely getting the vaccine
- And finally, I know that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39)—if we will humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God (1 Peter 5:6)
*These are key verses to lookup.
What I don’t know (because I’m finite just like every expert scientist, doctor, professional researcher, and personal truth seeker)…
- I don’t know what I don’t know—which knowing could change my mind and perspective of the situation we are in and how I see and think about people around me
- I don’t know what the long term risks of the vaccine are
- I don’t know who to trust over another—and it is easy to become skeptical of everyone,
- I don’t know how far to go in fighting for freedoms
- I don’t know the full extent of what is being censored and why?
- I don’t know how serious or long-lasting the positive or negative effects of the lockdown and other COVID response policies and protocols will be
- I don’t know peoples hearts—therefore, must learn to give the benefit of the doubt as much as possible and believe in goodwill
- I don’t know how to change peoples minds but that’s not my job anyways
I don’t know the ripple effects of my choices and how they will affect others or how they will affect me into the future…
- If I comply with government mandates will that lead me down a slippery slope of compliance regarding future matters of conscience and faith
- If I don’t comply with the government am I unnecessarily opposing authorities that God has set in place and hardening my heart against God by doing what is right in my own eyes (Proverbs 21:2)
Likely more could be added to each of these lists, and perhaps some of these items should not have been included. I listed what seemed clear to me and what reflects many of the things I have been hearing and/or learned in Scripture. But the two most important in the "what I know" list are number 1 and number 21. These two I must know and remember and you must know and remember if we are going to survive and hang on to Jesus.
I could expound on all of this a lot more, but I want to conclude by first, asking for your prayers. I need your prayers in order to be a confident, humble, and faithful leader. I also need your prayers for wisdom personally and professionally.
I need your prayers in order to be a confident, humble, and faithful leader.
I have not taken the vaccine and the reason I share this publicly is so that I can ask you to pray that God would give me the wisdom to make the right choice for me and my family. I also, share this with you because no one including myself should be shamed or feel afraid, to be honest about who they are or the choices they have made. It is long overdue for us to learn to agree to disagree and still love and accept each other. That’s how a safe community lives and even more important that is what Christ expects. As, an important side point, satan will tempt all of us to be self-righteous and justify our choice to vaccinate or not vaccinate. Yes, by all means, share your fears, questions, concerns, and even advocate for your beliefs, but never lord them over your neighbour.
Second, it is time for us to finish the work God has called us to do as His people. There have been many benefits as a result of the pandemic, but there have been many curses as well. Not, the least of which is a distraction from our mission to share the love of Jesus and to tell of His soon return with all the world.
As we seek to survive the pandemic and continue to face many hard choices—it’s urgent that we rise above and press on, it’s harvest time, Jesus is coming again—let’s go home!
Here's a powerful Bible verse to consider—in view of our finite limitations:
"It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter" (Proverbs 25:2).
Keep searching, keep learning, and if you change your mind good, if you later think you a wrong choice that’s OK God’s grace is sufficient!
Sincerely—with much love and prayers,
Pastor Royce Odiyar