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Opting Out of Biblical Inoculation

March 26, 2010

The capacity of the human body to defeat disease is an undeniable testimony to its Designer. Germs that work their way into our system are flagged, surrounded and destroyed through the biological weaponry of our white blood cells. In order to eradicate certain diseases altogether, vaccination has become a frequent childhood ritual. This familiar practice injects the body with a weakened strain of the disease (take polio for example) in order to give the body an ability to arm itself against the full strength of the pathogen. Inoculations have thus shifted our medical strategy for dealing with disease. Rather than attempting to avoid all contact in hopes of escaping infection, exposure to a weakened version is now intentionally sought, and this without the fear that would have crippled earlier generations. This startling confidence is built on the well-proven assumption that when a weak version of a threat is entertained, a potentially deadly enemy can be domesticated into a servant of our future health.
If we turn this idea of inoculation on its head, we can observe a pattern that is becoming increasingly pervasive in the American church. The capacity of the human heart to distort the truth is an undeniable testimony to its depravity. Jeremiah tells us that the heart is deceitful above all else, and desperately (meaning incurably) sick. A symptom of that sickness is our unwillingness to admit the truth about our condition, even to ourselves. As king Solomon was given the grace to recognize, our hearts can deceive their own hosts about their true intentions.
By the grace of God, a remedy has been provided for the malady of our sin-sick hearts. The cure is the new covenant surgery, whereby our heart of stone is replaced with a heart of flesh. This surgery is worked by the Great Physician as His Spirit applies His word to our hearts. This Word imparts a sin-removing and life-giving power. The Word of God is the power of God that performs the will of God in our hearts.
Viewed from the perspective of our flesh, this introduction of the Word of God is a lethal seed that threatens to consume us if it is allowed to operate at full strength. Our stony hearts, however, are not without a strategy to resist this assault. Through understanding the connection between God’s Word and the power of God’s Person, our strategy for self-preservation is to sever this bond.  We will try anything to turn the raw, sovereign authority of His words into a domesticated servant of our fleshly agenda.

This process can be thought of as a sort of biblical inoculation. In other words, for our own ‘good’ we are willing to undergo weakened exposure to fragments of the Bible. Realizing that we can no longer avoid Him altogether, we may even intentionally seek out exposure to carefully selected aspects of His Person, learning how to talk about Him and read His words in a way that builds up a tolerance to His absolute and unqualified claim on our lives. While we may talk about the inspiration and authority of the Bible on a notional level, our practical usage limits its influence to a rabbit’s foot, a cultural artifact, or a handbook of corporate leadership principles.  The way Scripture is handled in many pulpits today only reinforces this approach. We are corporately inoculated against the transformative, disruptive power of God’s Word by just enough exposure to mealy-mouthed interpretations twisted to make us feel good about ourselves.
If Easter is meant to teach us anything, it is meant to demonstrate that Jesus is not meant to be domesticated. Neither is the text inspired and applied by the power of His Spirit. Power that can raise a man from the dead and exalt Him to the right hand of the Majesty on high is a terrible and awesome power. It cannot be weakened and impressed into the service of any human agenda. The good news of the Easter gospel is that this power is exercised unto life-giving and re-creating ends. It is new covenant fulfilling power. It is precisely and only what our hearts need, no matter how much they protest. May we opt out of biblical inoculations this Easter and allow the Word of God to runs its full and all-consuming course in our hearts.

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