March of the year 2020 will be a month that many will remember as the start of COVID-19. While we are currently moving out of this season of COVID-19 in most of the world, the question of what we learned as Christians is one of great importance. As I’ve reflected on the impact of COVID-19, I’ve seen a lack of understanding of Christian ethics—both during and after. Some well-meaning Christian leaders of various persuasions have made getting the vaccine of near salvific importance and made it a requirement to attend their churches. Others have said it is a matter of conscience. Others have encouraged people to avoid it. And all the while, both sides have vilified one another, questioning one another’s motives and orthodoxy.
As members of the body of Christ, love is at the head of the list of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Christians are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. We have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of the Lord Jesus (Colossians 1:13). Our agreement (or lack thereof) on whether or not our churches should be open or closed during a pandemic, or whether we should take the vaccine or not, is not the issue. The issue of paramount importance is love. In John 13:35, Jesus said that the world would know us by our love. Love is the cardinal virtue of the Christian life and is critical to the Church’s effective witness to a watching world. The past two years have fractured us and not drawn us together. And a large reason for this is due to the fact that we lack a good understanding of Christian ethics.
Christian ethics are a matter of applying biblical, systematic, historical, and practical theology. It is the taking of the best of those theological disciplines and applying them to the questions and issues of our day. In a day of growing biblical and theological illiteracy, we need a good understanding of these theological disciplines to help navigate the challenges ahead. But above all, we need to love the Lord and our neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). We need to heed the words of Paul in Galatians 6:1-2—commands which include bearing each other’s burdens and thus fulfilling the law of Christ in our local churches.
A post-COVID-19 world will be one full of skepticism towards institutions, including the Church and the government. Before COVID-19, ours was a world where institutions repelled many people, but now in a post-COVID-19 world, we will see that only increase. The value of the individual and what they think and see will only increase, and it’s only exacerbated by the past two years with COVID-19. With “misinformation”, questions about the validity of what was presented from the government to many Christian leaders binding the consciences of people, and more issues, we are living in a challenging time for the Church’s Christian witness.
Above all, what we need is love. Love for God that is rooted in the finished and sufficient work of Christ. We need to be rooted in the whole Word of God (Old and New Testaments), both individually and corporately. As the Church, we face many issues—critical race theory (CRT), intersectionality, abortion, and much more. These are not easy issues, nor are there “pat answers” where we can say, “I have the answer,” because we are just beginning to understand these situations and/or issues. Even so, the Christian tradition does have good answers from the Word of God and Church history to help us. We can learn from them how to navigate not only our times faithfully, but also reflecting on how they navigated in times past.
Christian ethics help us navigate the challenges ahead—from questions on technology, critical race theory, intersectionality, abortion, and more. And this is why we are doing this issue of Theology for Life on Christian ethics. To be clear, we will not say everything in this issue, and you’ll want more. That’s why we provide a recommended reading section for more reading. We encourage you to view this issue as an “introduction” to these issues and, for further study, suggest you consider our recommended reading list for more information on this subject.
Whether you are experienced in the field of Christian ethics or brand new to these concepts in a post-COVID-19 world, we will need help. God’s Word is our foundation and it is enough to help us to navigate the challenges of the days ahead. Further, God’s Word is enough to help us witness effectively in our current and future social climate. We must trust God’s faithful, sure, and steadfast Word, because behind it is a faithful, just, and loving Lord who always acts according to His revealed character in Scripture.
With this issue of Theology for Life, our prayer is that you’ll be helped and equipped to serve the Lord on the issues we address in it. And that you’ll consider, as we face this post-Covid-19 world, that we—as Christians—do not reject institutions, but must work to rebuild trust and faith, especially those related to the Church and gospel-oriented ministries. Let us serve those seeking help with the love of God so we can make disciples for God’s glory.
In Christ Alone,
Executive Editor, Theology for Life Magazine