Despite our origins in countries and cultures of enormous contrast, Leaderwell Pohsngap and I have been close personal friends since we first met 35 years ago at a conference in Asia.
That is due, of course, to our mutual commitment to follow Jesus. It may also have something to do with our love of fishing. “Leader”--many of his friends call him that, and it fits him well--grew up fishing trout in his native India.
You may have raised an eyebrow at that last comment, but it’s true. Unlike most of India, the Khasi hills in the extreme northeast boast a landscape and climate more evocative of the Scottish highlands than Jungle Book. Leader fondly recalls stalking wily trout in his boyhood and is always eager to go fishing.
Not that he has much time for it. His career has included stints as a bank executive, missionary to Africa and church planter. Along the way he earned a doctorate in Kentucky, served two terms as president of Pune’s Union Biblical Seminary, developed a Leadership curriculum for Global Disciples and sat on the board of World Vision International.
At this writing, Leader is serving as the founding Principal (President) of JJM Nichols-Roy College in Shillong, Meghalaya, and completing his three score and ten. His golden years will likely continue to demand much of his time and talent.
Whenever Leader takes a moment to put pen to paper, he manages to write something that just has to be passed along. The following commentary takes on a thorny issue that we face in these confusing times, and shows that persons who live in countries and cultures of enormous contrast often wrestle with identical problems.
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More than two weeks ago, I got a call early in the morning from a very committed pastor whom I know well. He told me that he and others are calling for a state-wide ‘Prayer and Fasting’ meeting the following Sunday for the Covid-19 pandemic. He said that many people from all the district headquarters of Meghalaya would join. The prayer meeting did happen and I joined it from home.
On that morning call, to impress me about the need for prayer meeting, the pastor told me many things about Covid-19. What stuck in my mind was what he said about the vaccination: They have divided the Christians.
I never asked him what he meant by ‘They.’ Did he refer to the governments of the world? Did he refer to the scientific community that brought out the vaccines? Did he refer to some business conglomerates that some have accused of enriching themselves from this plague by pushing these vaccines on us? Did he refer to the doctors who encourage us to be vaccinated against Covid-19? Did he refer to the ‘One world Order,’ a term we have heard uttered here and there, the meaning of which we do not know? Was he even aware of what he meant by ‘they’?
On one thing he is right. Vaccination against Covid-19 has divided not only the Christians but the whole world. Interestingly even the scientific community is divided. With different views, theories and proofs floating around on social media, we do not know who is right and who is wrong.
The pro-vaccination side says that the vaccination will protect you from the severity of the disease, even if you contract it. This group supplies us with enough statistics to prove that they are right.
The anti-vaccination group says that this is, in fact, a ploy by the powers that be who want to control your life. They say that the vaccination is a reengineering of your DNA to control you. They too give their scientific arguments. There are Christians who believe in this alteration of DNA and conclude that since a vaccination is the mark of the Beast. The vaccination has become 666.
These questions require answers for us Christians. Here are some that occur to me.
Who are we as Christians? Does it matter?
Peter’s speech on the day of Pentecost sums up the identity of a Christian. And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Acts 2:21). This is vital. The Lordship of Jesus is the only common denominator that gives Christians their identity.
Are we divided? If so, on what issues? Does it matter to our identity?
Yes. We are a divided lot. We are divided on so many issues. During the New Testament times Christians were divided between Jews and Greeks, free and slave, rich and poor.
Later on we are divided on the types of church government we believe in. We are divided on the day and the way we worship. We are divided on the interpretation of the Bible and a many other issues. That is why we have so many denominations. And now we are talking about a pan-denominational division on the question of vaccination against Covid-19.
But this division does not matter to our identity if Jesus is our Lord.
How should we treat each other amidst our differences?
We belong to the same Lord. We ought to love each other. We need to respect each other. We are commanded by our Lord to help each other. We need to think about others first, especially those whom we think are weaker in faith than us. Paul, when he wrote to a very divided church at Corinth advised the stronger Christians to think of the weaker ones in the matter of eating meat offered to idols (1 Corinthians 8:1-13).
Is it right to spend time on debating who is right or wrong in the question of vaccination against Covid-19? I do not think so. Rather, let us act in such a way that will help others and glorify Jesus, our Lord.
Come with me to the teaching of Jesus about the coming judgment on the last day (Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus will separate the sheep and the goats, the righteous and the unrighteous, those who did His will and those who did not.
You will be shocked perhaps that your race, your tribe, your status, your denomination, your worship style, your interpretation of the Bible, or whether we are for Covid -19 vaccination or against it, will not matter. What counts will be whether we feed Him or not when He is hungry, give Him drink or not when He is thirsty, show hospitality or not when He is a stranger, clothe Him or not when He is naked, visit Him or not when He is sick or in prison.
A further shock will be when we find out that serving Jesus is serving the least and the neediest.
Shouldn’t we during this time of the pandemic stand in compassion with those who have lost their loved ones? Shouldn’t we visit and pray with those who are sick from this disease, whether at home or in the hospital? Shouldn’t we do all we can to keep the protocols and obey the authorities? Shouldn’t we even vaccinate ourselves, even if we are not sure about it, for the sake of others? Shouldn’t we think of those who are in dire need due to this plague and help where we can?
Photos: Leaderwell and wife Sita. Barbara and husband Dave.